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Frozen shoulder

Here’s some information on a sticky condition…the frozen shoulder.

Have you been told by your GP that you have a frozen shoulder? Are you trying to work out what that is? Although the condition is not a serious threat to your general health, it can cause serious problems for the shoulder and become a real nuisance in your life! You have a frozen shoulder if your shoulder is painful and stiff, and when I say stiff I mean really stiff. It has a real limitation in movement, actively and passively (when you move it and when someone else moves it for you). The pain can be severe at times, disturbing your sleep and making daily tasks a mission, and life can be hard in these moments.

Research has suggested that, on average, its duration can last between 1-3.5 years, but it is something that will slowly get better with time. There is some more good news, because there are a few things that you can do for it and I've found physiotherapy to be successful in reducing the symptoms. (Skip the following paragraph if you’re not interested in the sciency stuff.)

So why does this happen?

It is still not completely understood (some science!). It can be spontaneous, or it can be associated with trauma or changes to the rotator cuff muscles/tendons. Diabetes and thyroid disorders also have a link. The joint capsule, and other structures that surround your shoulder are thought to become inflamed and thickened, making it sticky/”frozen”, alongside an increase in nerve fibres in the area, which combine to give you the stiff and painful shoulder. There is no gold standard treatment option, with no agreement on the most effective therapy or surgery, and nothing has been proven to be a quick fix for the problem. In my experience there are some good exercises that can really improve things within a few weeks by stretching the thick tissue, helping to restore some functional movement at the shoulder and settle down pain. Getting the pain under control, doing some regular exercise, and making other lifestyle changes often helps to settle the pain down effectively, and then it’s just down to 'father time' to do the “thawing”, and restore the rest of the movement.

Feel free to get in touch today if you've been told you have a frozen shoulder and want some advice on what to do!

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