Adhesive Capsulitis, more commonly known as ‘Frozen Shoulder’, is a condition affecting the joint capsule surrounding the shoulder.
Each synovial joint in our bodies has a joint capsule, constructed of connective tissue and ligaments, which helps provide stability, nutrients and protection to the joint it surrounds. In the case of a frozen shoulder, the capsule can slowly become tighter and more inflamed, limiting the movement available within the shoulder joint. Symptoms often begin slowly and worsen over time.
Most frozen shoulders if left untreated will last anywhere up to 3 years before they resolve. If treated early, the symptoms of the frozen shoulder can be limited, and prevented from worsening.
It is most common in 40–60-year-olds, and more common in women than in men. If you suffer with other health conditions, particularly diabetes, then you are also at a higher risk of suffering with frozen shoulder.
All frozen shoulders will go through a three-stage cycle: freezing phase, frozen phase and a thawing phase. It is not yet well known what causes frozen shoulder, but it is relatively simple to diagnose. The main symptoms of a frozen shoulder are pain, stiffness and a loss in mobility of the shoulder joint, particularly in rotation, flexion and abduction.
Stage 1 – Freezing
This is the stage in which the shoulder symptoms are getting worse; typically lasting a few months. This is where you will notice the biggest change in your movement, pain levels and stiffness.
Stage 2 – Frozen
During this stage, your symptoms will improve a little, with pain levels reducing, but some stiffness and loss of mobility will remain consistent. Typically, this phase can last 4-6 months.
Stage 3 – Thawing
The thawing stage is the stage which can take the longest amount of time. This stage is where your symptoms will continue improving and your range of motion will begin to improve. This stage could last up to 2 years to fully resolve.
Treatment in the freezing stage can be pivotal to determine how bad your symptoms become. Sports therapy treatments, such as massage, exercise rehabilitation and be activated therapy can not only alleviate pain but prevent the loss of mobility and increasing stiffness from worsening. Treatment is also effective in speeding up the remaining stages of a frozen shoulder; treatment throughout the frozen phase can speed up this process and therefore fast track a patient to their thawing phase.
A lack of treatment for this condition can results in a lengthy duration of being in pain, suffering with a lack of mobility and increased stiffness. Don’t wait to see how it goes, get it assessed, diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, to prevent it from becoming worse.
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