What is Frozen Shoulder and How Can I Thaw It?

A frozen shoulder is exactly the way it sounds: Your shoulder gets stuck and has limited to no movement. You don’t just lose function either; a frozen shoulder is also quite painful.

The first line of treatment for a frozen shoulder is physical therapy. At Omega Physical Therapy in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, we have the expertise to help you thaw a frozen shoulder, using specialized exercises and manual therapies to relieve your pain while improving your range of motion.

Description of a Frozen Shoulder

In your shoulder joint, the rounded shape of your upper arm bone fits into a socket in the shoulder blade. This joint is surrounded by strong connective tissue called the shoulder capsule.

Normally, the shoulder capsule easily expands and contracts as you move your arm. When the tissues become inflamed, however, scarring develops that tightens the shoulder capsule, restricts movement, and causes pain. This is when you have frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is most likely to develop after your shoulder has been immobilized due to problems such as:

You’re also at a higher risk of developing a frozen shoulder if you have certain systemic diseases such as a thyroid imbalance, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Diabetes is an independent risk factor, which means it significantly raises your chance of a frozen shoulder. In fact, if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you’re five times more likely to develop adhesive capsulitis compared to people who don’t have diabetes.

Stages of a Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder develops the same way it thaws — gradually. Once frozen shoulder syndrome begins, it goes through three stages:

Stage 1: Freezing

During this stage, which lasts from six weeks to nine months, your shoulder pain gradually worsens. As pain increases, your shoulder progressively loses its range of motion.

Stage 2: Frozen

Although your pain may improve during stage 2, your shoulder continues to stiffen, becoming so difficult to move that you may struggle to perform simple daily activities. In severe cases, you can lose all shoulder movement. Stage 2 typically lasts four to six months.

Stage 3: Thawing

Shoulder movement very slowly improves. Getting back to your normal strength and range of motion takes six months to two years.

Ways to Thaw a Frozen Shoulder

Although a frozen shoulder gets better over time, it can take three years or longer. The best way to thaw a frozen shoulder is with physical therapy and structured exercises to help relieve your pain, reduce inflammation, and restore your shoulder’s motion and strength.

The process of thawing a frozen shoulder focuses on relieving pain and inflammation, while loosening scar tissue to enable movement. It’s important to keep your shoulder moving as much as possible, which is a challenge when it’s frozen. That’s why the road to thawing a frozen shoulder begins with our support.

As experts in physical therapy, we have years of experience using multiple modalities to improve a frozen shoulder. We develop a customized treatment plan that includes in-office therapies complemented by a program of exercise for you to do at home.

Your in-home treatment may include basics like hot and cold therapy to treat inflammation and promote healing. If your shoulder is severely or completely frozen, you may need the assistance of devices like an overhead pulley to help you exercise at home.

In the office, we put your arm through its range of motion, which may include passive movement as we manipulate your arm, as well as provide careful support while you perform the extent of movement you’re able to achieve.

We can help thaw a frozen shoulder with manual therapies to loosen scar tissue and adhesions. We also have the expertise and equipment to safely stretch the capsule, open the shoulder joint, and rebuild strength.

Don’t wait for your shoulder to worsen. At the first sign of pain and stiffness, call Omega Physical Therapy or simply book an appointment online — we’re here to support your recovery.

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