“My shoulder hurts and wakes me up at night”
I hear this often and most patients don’t even recall an injury! You may have a Frozen Shoulder, one of the most misunderstood conditions that affect middle-age women. Adhesive Capsulitis is the medical term for this condition.
This occurs in 2-3% of the population. Mostly in women in their 40s to 60s. Early diagnosis can clear the confusion about what is causing the pain as well as reduce the recovery time. Most patients think that it is a problem with their rotator cuff. Actually, it is a mysterious scarring of the soft tissue that holds the shoulder together. This makes the shoulder feel stiff.
Who gets a Frozen Shoulder?
- Diabetics are at higher risk, occurring in up to 20% of diabetics
- Underactive thyroid is a risk factor
- Trauma can cause adhesive capsulitis
- But 70% of patients are females in middle-age, so hormones may play some role we don’t understand
- 15% of patients will eventually get it in both shoulders
Treatment for Frozen Shoulder
I love it when someone shows up in the early stages of a frozen shoulder because I can often inject cortisone into the joint giving them a head start on rehabilitation. Recent studies have shown that an injection early may shorten the natural process by months. Unfortunately, many patients come after several months of waiting and hoping the pain and stiffness will go away as mysteriously as it came. These patients may take months or years to improve without aggressive treatment.
Signs of a frozen shoulder are:
- Pain at rest
- Increasing stiffness such as reaching behind you to unfasten a bra or put on a coat
Many patients believe they have had a shoulder injury and have had aggressive physical therapy that worsens their frozen shoulder. Physical therapy should not make you painful and stiff! Adhesive capsulitis needs gentle stretching.
Those patients who wait too long may have to have more aggressive treatment. This may involve a trip to the operating room to have the stiff scar tissue manipulated, or an arthroscopic procedure to release the adhesions. The good news is these procedures usually immediately restore the motion and relieve the pain.
Don’t wait if your shoulder hurts
Most people just don’t know what adhesive capsulitis is or may have been misdiagnosed. If you have shoulder pain, don’t wait! Getting it examined early and a cortisone injection may save you months of recovery. If you have any good stories or questions about frozen shoulder let me know.