Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a very common condition seen at Wicklow Physiotherapy Clinic. With our many years clinical experience in treating shoulder problems we are well equipped to offer the best possible service to aid your recovery. Frozen shoulder can most often be diagnosed on examination, no special tests are required.

The most common time a patient presents for physiotherapy for shoulder treatment is when they complain of pain at night. We always like to know exactly where the pain is and classically a patient with frozen shoulder will point to the top of their upper arm. They are often unaware of having injured their shoulder but on further questioning might recall doing some heavy lifting some months previously.

On examination there will often be a marked loss in range of motion, classically they may report being unable to get their hand behind their back. Passively the therapist will be able to move the shoulder further but it will be painful.

Despite its frequent occurrence, the mechanism leading to many frozen shoulders is unclear. What we do know is that it develops slowly and can last from eighteen months to two years if left untreated. It can be divided into three phases:

1. Freezing phrase: Pain increases with movement and is often worse at night. There is a progressive loss of motion with increasing pain. This stage lasts approximately 2 to 9 months

2. Frozen phase: Pain begins to diminish but the range of motion is now much more limited, with pain at the end range of movement. This stage may last 4 to 12 months.

3. Thawing phase: The condition may begin to resolve and is normally painless. Most patients experience a gradual restoration of motion over the next 12 to 24 months.

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Should I rest my frozen shoulder?
Gentle movement will help to keep the blood flowing to the injured area. Of course, if pain is present, limit the amount of moving you do, but don’t stop moving all together.   Your physiotherapist will be able to show you safe ways to exercise your shoulder depending on what stage you are at.

The basic aim of frozen shoulder exercises are:

  • To reduce pain.
  • To increase extensibility of the thickened and contracted capsule of the joint at the anteroinferior border and at the attachment of the capsule to the anatomical neck of humerus.
  • To improve mobility of the shoulder.
  • To improve strength of the muscle. However it may be remembered that strengthening of muscle is secondary to mobilization.
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