“I’m having significant shoulder pain, is it a frozen shoulder?”

Shoulder pain can be a result of many different structural dysfunctions: rotator cuff injury, rotator cuff weakness, tightness of the capsule, poor posture, etc. One common diagnosis is a “Frozen shoulder” or the technical name, Adhesive Capsulitis.  As the name suggests, the capsule tightens up, not allowing for normal shoulder movement.

What can cause this and what do I need to do to help treat it? There are two main types of frozen shoulder:

1. Insidious onset- no injury, just a natural tendency for the shoulder muscles and capsule to get tight. The most commonly effected with this type of frozen shoulder are women with diabetes and it is also common to experience this in both shoulders.

2. Secondary frozen shoulder:  The second, more common type of frozen shoulder is a secondary complication as a result of some type of shoulder injury.  For example, you hurt your shoulder while lifting something heavy or playing tennis and you get diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury.  Well, your arm hurts to you stop using it for many daily activities while you rest it.  However, if you don’t perform the correct range of motion exercises during this “rest period”, your shoulder joint and capsule could freeze up resulting in a much longer rehabilitation period.

The literature states that from the onset of shoulder pain or arm pain from a frozen shoulder, it will take about 24 months to completely heal and regain all lost function.  What can you do to speed up the recovery time?  Focused and specific range of motion and strengthening exercises will help tremendously.  Be smart and take charge of your health!

Ed Deboo, Physical Therapist, Bellingham, Washington.