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What’s the Remedy for a Frozen Shoulder?

What’s the Remedy for a Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is a painful condition in which shoulder movement is restricted. It develops when the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint (known as the shoulder joint capsule) thickens, stiffens, and becomes inflamed. The ligaments that bind the top of the upper arm bone to the shoulder socket, firmly holding the joint in place, are contained within the joint capsule. 

Most people reduce activity when they experience shoulder pain. However, inactivity can make the shoulder even more difficult to move. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and restore shoulder mobility. 

The Santa Barbara, California community can rely on the expertise of board-certified orthopedic shoulder surgeon Matthew Pifer, MD, to accurately diagnose and treat your shoulder pain. Frozen shoulder is relatively common and with the right care, most patients fully recover. The earlier you seek help for frozen shoulder, the better. 

Why is my shoulder frozen?

The gradual lack of movement in the shoulder joint causes frozen shoulder. The shoulder joint is a ball and a socket, and it’s one of the most mobile joints in the body. When the shoulder freezes, the joint becomes stuck, and movement is restricted.

Although numerous shoulder disorders cause pain and loss of motion, inflammation of the tissues around the joint is the most common cause of frozen shoulder.

Folds in the capsule normally extend and shrink when the arm moves into various positions. When the capsule becomes inflamed, frozen shoulder can develop. Scar tissue can form and restrict shoulder movement.

Muscle and tendon inflammation, such as rotator cuff tendinitis or bursitis, can also cause the shoulder joint to become frozen.

Who is at risk for a frozen shoulder?

Middle-aged and older adults between the ages of 40 and 60 are at risk of developing a frozen shoulder. What’s more, it affects more women than men.

Any shoulder injury, such as a rotator cuff tear, or operation that requires the shoulder to be immobilized raises the risk of frozen shoulder. 

Frozen shoulder rehabilitation

If you’re having shoulder pain and trouble moving your shoulder, schedule a physical evaluation with Dr. Pifer. In addition to a thorough physical assessment, Dr. Pifer may order imaging tests to further evaluate your shoulder and rule out other issues.

The treatment for a frozen shoulder focuses on alleviating discomfort and restoring normal range of motion to the shoulder. A corticosteroid injection into the shoulder joint reduces inflammation and eases pain.

However, physical therapy is the cornerstone of treatment, focusing initially on activities that stretch the joint capsule and then on strengthening exercises. A physical therapist can show you how far you should push yourself and give you the necessary exercises. Once you've identified your restrictions, you can do most of your exercises at home on your own.

You’ll need to limit any tasks that require overhead reaching, lifting, or anything else that aggravates your pain while you try to extend the shoulder capsule. If you stick to your frozen shoulder workout routine, you should be able to resume your normal level of activity. However, full healing from a frozen shoulder can take several months.

Is surgery ever necessary?

If the above treatment does not improve your range of motion and pain, surgery may be recommended.

Dr. Pifer specializes in minimally invasive shoulder surgery. This involves using small instruments inserted through small incisions in the shoulder to repair the shoulder. There are various ways to perform shoulder repair, depending on the underlying problem. For example, if a bone spur is found to contribute to frozen shoulder, Dr. Pifer will remove the bone spur during shoulder repair.

The sooner you get treatment for frozen shoulder, the sooner you can start feeling better. To get started, call our Santa Barbara office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pifer. A member of our team can assist you in scheduling an in-person or telemedicine appointment.

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