Frozen Shoulder: What You Need to Know

By Sally A. Caldwell, DPT
Clinical Director of Mishock Physical Therapy, Phoenixville

Frozen shoulder, medically referred to as adhesive capsulitis, is a common disorder in which the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and stiff, greatly restricting motion and causing chronic pain.

The condition is much more common in women than in men. In fact according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NAIMS) 70% of patients are women aged 40–60. The exact cause is unknown, but it can last from five months up to three years or more and is thought in some cases to be caused by injury or trauma to the area. It is also believed that frozen shoulder may have an autoimmune component, which means that the body attacks healthy tissue in the capsule. In addition there can be a lack of fluid in the joint, further restricting movement.

Adhesive capsulitis is a painful and disabling condition that often causes great frustration for patients due to slow recovery. (This condition can last upwards of two or three years if left untreated.) It can make even small tasks seem impossible and the condition oftentimes leads to depression, pain, and problems in the neck and back.

Major symptoms of this condition include:
• Stage One: The “freezing” or painful stage in which the patient has a slow onset of constant pain; can be worse at night or in cold weather. Motion begins to decrease.
• Stage Two: The “frozen” or adhesive stage is marked by a slow improvement in pain but moderate to severe stiffness remains.
• Stage Three: The “thawing” or recovery stage, when shoulder motion slowly returns to normal. This can last for 2 – 3 years.

At Mishock Physical Therapy & Associates, we treat this condition on a regular basis. First, a comprehensive evaluation is done to assess the severity and then a plan of care is formulated. Most often this plan consists of specific stretching, joint mobilizations, therapeutic exercise, massage, as well as patient education and a home exercise program.

If you are struggling with shoulder pain, and it is limiting you from doing the activities you enjoy, please call for a FREE phone consultation at (610)327-2600.

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Mishock Physical Therapy has six convenient locations to serve you in Gilbertsville, Skippack, Phoenixville, Barto, Limerick and Stowe.

New patient scheduling: 610-327-2600