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Frozen Shoulder: What You Need to Know
Frozen Shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a relatively common condition, typically affecting women 40-60 years of age. Frozen shoulder can come on for no particular reason and is typically descriped in three phases:
- The freezing phase - where patients complain of pain and not so much stiffness.
- The frozen phase - where the pain might dimish but the shoulder becomes stiff.
- The thawing phase - the shoulder eventually does get better but can take up to two years or more.
If you think you have frozen shoulder the first step is to see you primary care doctor. Once diagnoses, they may refer you to physical therapy or an orthopedist.
How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?
Your doctor may suspect frozen shoulder if a physical exam reveals limited shoulder movement. An X-ray may be done to see whether symptoms are from another condition such as arthritis or a broken bone.
How is it treated?
Treatment for frozen shoulder usually starts with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and application of heat to the affected area, followed by gentle stretching. Ice and medicines (including corticosteroid injections) may also be used to reduce pain and swelling. And physical therapy can help increase your range of motion. A frozen shoulder can take a year or more to get better.
If treatment is not helping, surgery is sometimes done to loosen some of the tight tissues around the shoulder. Two surgeries are often done. In one surgery, called manipulation under anesthesia, you are put to sleep and then your arm is moved into positions that stretch the tight tissue. The other surgery uses an arthroscope to cut through tight tissues and scar tissue. These surgeries can both be done at the same time.
Learn more about frozen shoulder in our health library.
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