Understanding Frozen Shoulder (Part 2): Diagnosis & Treatment

Adhesive capsulitis, more commonly known as frozen shoulder, is an ailment marked by painful stiffness in the joint of the shoulder. Symptoms of frozen shoulder typically manifest slowly over time, gradually worsening, and then resolving during the span of one to three years.

Diagnosing Frozen Shoulder

While undergoing your physical exam, both your active range of motion and passive range of motion will be examined. You will be asked to move in various ways, both to observe your range of motion, and to determine the level of pain you’re experiencing. Your doctor will then have you relax your arm muscles while moving your arm.

Occasionally, anesthetic may be injected into your shoulder to better observe your active and passive ranges of motion.

Generally, it is possible to diagnose frozen shoulder simply by observing signs and symptoms. Occasionally, however, imaging tests (X-rays or MRIs) may be implemented to rule out similar conditions, such as arthritis or general inflammation of the shoulder.

Treating Frozen Shoulder

The number-one treatment for frozen shoulder involves specific exercises, prescribed by a physical therapist, to stretch and strengthen the shoulder muscles and tendons. This will increase the range of motion as well as reduce the intense pain. In some cases, corticosteroids and anesthetic may be injected into the shoulder’s joint capsule by the treating doctor as well.

Ibuprofen, aspirin, and other over-the-counter pain medications can play a significant role in diminishing the pain and inflammation that comes along with frozen shoulder. In more intense cases, stronger prescription pain-relievers and anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation  – or TENS – therapy can also often help patients find relief from frozen shoulder. Hydrodilatation – the injection of warmed saline water into the affected shoulder – has also recently emerged as a potential non-surgical option in the management of frozen shoulder.

Should these treatment options fail to thaw the frozen shoulder, surgery is an other option for treating frozen shoulder. In a small number of cases, arthroscopic surgery may be required to loosen the joint capsule, allowing for a much wider range of movement.

In most cases, frozen shoulders heal even without intervention during the span of 12 to 18 months. However, employing the following treatments can remedy the condition more rapidly as well as reduce the associated pain:

  • Steroid injections, which when implemented in the early stages of a frozen shoulder, can significantly improve your shoulder’s range of motion, as well as alleviate pain.
  • Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen shoulder muscles, tendons and ligaments can extend the range of motion as well as reduce pain.
  • Joint distension, the process by which saline water is injected into the joint capsule, can stretch the tissue, allowing for easier joint movement.
  • Shoulder manipulation, wherein while under general anesthetic, your shoulder joint is manually moved in different directions, can aid in loosening up tightened tissue.
  • Surgery to treat frozen shoulder is uncommon, but in cases where other treatments have not proved successful, scar tissue and adhesions within the shoulder joint may be surgically removed.

It is extremely uncommon for frozen shoulder to reoccur in the same shoulder. However, some people do experience frozen shoulder occurring in the opposite shoulder after their previous frozen shoulder has healed.

Macomb County Frozen Shoulder Doctor

If you are suffering from an injury or pain in your fingers, wrist, elbow, arm or shoulder, contact board certified Macomb County surgeon Doctor Rehman for a comprehensive evaluation and consultation. As with most medical conditions, early detection, awareness, and a prevention or treatment plan is the most effective way to combat the effects of frozen shoulder.

Doctor Rehman will assess your individual situation, and prescribe the frozen shoulder treatments and therapies that are best for you.

Macomb County Frozen Shoulder Doctor: 586.532.0803