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Frozen Shoulder

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Chronic pain and stiffness in the shoulder and restricted range of motion can indicate the presence of a few different conditions including one known as frozen shoulder. While the exact cause of a frozen shoulder is unknown, the discomfort and disability associated with the condition results from inflammation and scar tissue within the shoulder capsule. The shoulder capsule is the connective tissue that surrounds the synovial ball and socket joint that joins the upper arm bone (humerus) and shoulder blade (scapula). Without proper treatment, frozen shoulder typically continues to worsen, disturbs sleep, and limits arm movement. Pain and cramping can become so severe that patients begin to experience interruption in simple daily activities and secondary symptoms resulting from sleep deprivation. Over a period of approximately one to three years, the condition usually improves on its own; however, the intense discomfort it causes motivates most sufferers to seek treatment for relief.

If problematic shoulder stiffness and discomfort have been affecting your quality-of-life, we invite you to contact our practice to schedule an appointment. At Garden State Orthopaedic Associates our board certified orthopaedic surgeons maintain a special focus on diagnosis and treatment of shoulder conditions, and can help you start the journey toward relief. We offer a wide range of non-surgical therapies that can relieve the symptoms of frozen shoulder. Most patients with frozen shoulder do not require surgery; however, in severe cases our highly skilled orthopaedic surgeons can use minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery techniques to identify and treat problem areas. From diagnosis to rehabilitation you can rely on Garden State Orthopaedic Associates to deliver the comprehensive, state-of-the-art care you need.

What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, is a condition in which the glenohumeral joint connecting the upper arm and shoulder blade lacks synovial fluid (naturally occurring joint lubricant) and becomes stiff and inflamed. Bands of scar tissue that form in the joint capsule, called adhesions, tighten and thicken the connective tissue causing pain and restriction of the shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

Patients who are diagnosed with frozen shoulder at varying stages of the condition typically experience the following symptoms:

  • Joint pain caused by shoulder movement
  • Restricted shoulder movement
  • Pain in the shoulder muscles
  • Dull, achy shoulder pain
  • Shoulder pain during sleep
  • Chronic shoulder pain
  • Severe shoulder stiffness
  • Dramatically diminished range of motion or shoulder immobility

Often these symptoms appear in adults who have recently sustained an injury, such as a broken arm or rotator cuff injury, that kept their shoulder joint immobile for an extended period of time. There are also certain diseases which may make an individual more likely to develop a frozen shoulder, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, thyroid conditions, and other medical issues that require sedentary behavior and joint immobility during recovery.

Frozen Shoulder Diagnosis

At Garden State Orthopaedic Associates our orthopaedic surgeons utilize a variety of diagnostic techniques to determine whether patients are indeed suffering from a frozen shoulder. Proper testing and diagnostic imaging can eliminate other potential causes of shoulder pain and stiffness, such as arthritis, bursitis or, rotator cuff injuries. The process begins with an appointment to discuss your symptoms and review your medical history. Next your orthopaedic surgeon will determine your range-of-motion to notate any limitations. From there, he or she may request X-rays, MRIs, and/or shoulder ultrasound to help pinpoint a diagnosis.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment Options

Non-surgical treatments are often very effective for restoring range of motion and reducing pain caused by a frozen shoulder. A conservative approach often includes anti-inflammatory medications and injections, which are commonly combined with a physical therapy regimen to produce a favorable outcome. Manipulation of the shoulder joint under anesthesia (MUA) may also be considered to break down resistant fibrous tissue. If non-surgical methods are unable to provide sufficient relief, then your surgeon may consider minimally invasive shoulder arthroscopy to perform capsular release. During this procedure a fiber optic camera and specialized tools are used to cut the bands of scar tissue encapsulating the joint. This approach requires only small incisions, which can heal quickly and result in minimal scarring.

Recovery from a Frozen Shoulder

Unless other underlying shoulder injuries or conditions are present, the majority of patients diagnosed with a frozen shoulder are able to make significant improvement when given a suitable treatment plan. Individuals who do not have underlying health conditions and are committed to completing their treatment typically experience relief at an accelerated rate. For those with diabetes, recovery is usually a more extended process. If arthroscopic capsular release is performed, followed by participation in physical therapy, patients are generally able to return to work after a week. After three weeks significant pain relief can occur. Full recovery from surgery may take anywhere between six and nine months; however, patient recovery times may vary.

If you think you may be suffering from a frozen shoulder, please contact Garden State Orthopaedic Associates to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced orthopaedic surgeons.