Frozen Shoulder by osteopath Susan Bunce

What is a frozen shoulder, why does it occur and the role of therapies such as osteopathy.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is a common condition which is characterised by pain and stiffness in the shoulder. The symptoms may build up slowly over time but they may take a couple of years to resolve. Typically the pain tends to be at its worst in the initial 2-9 months, before the stiffness occurs.

What is frozen shoulder?

Our shoulder joints are surrounded by a flexible stocking like tissue, known as the capsule. When this stocking becomes inflamed and thickened it tends to stick to the joint, thus beginning to ‘freeze’ the joints movement.

Why does frozen shoulder occur?

No-one knows exactly why frozen shoulders occur but we do know they are more common in shoulders which have been involved in trauma or surgery, In those patients with diabetes, thyroid disease, chronic heart conditions, those who have prolonged immobility or who have suffered strokes. We also know they are more common in women than men and the 40-60 year age group are the most prone to them.

What treatments could help frozen shoulder? 

The good news is that most frozen shoulders will get better over time, but it can be a long journey. A range of treatments may however aid pain and improve mobility, when given at the correct time. Medications such as pain killers and anti-inflammatories may help, as may steroid injections. Physical therapy like osteopathy or physiotherapy may also assist, alongside exercise prescription. Acupuncture and massage have also been found by some people to assist symptoms. Surgical intervention is also a possible treatment if the condition fails to resolve.

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