The NHS has published a list of the top 20 most painful conditions to live with and frozen shoulder was among them. Not only does the condition cause extreme pain, but it can also last for many years if left untreated.
So, what is frozen shoulder and how can it be treated? Below, you’ll discover more about this painful condition and the treatment options on offer.
What is frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder is a condition which occurs when the shoulder joint’s ligaments stiffen and swell up. The swelling and stiffness become so bad that normal healing is unable to occur. This ultimately leads to difficulty moving the shoulder and carrying out regular day-to-day activities. If left untreated, the stiffness can become so severe that patients have very little function ability.
Those suffering from diabetes have been shown to have an increased risk of developing frozen shoulder. If you’ve had recent surgery, an under or over active thyroid, heart disease or if you’ve recently had a stroke, your risk factor also increases.
What causes the condition?
Frozen shoulder is broadly split into two categories. Primary frozen shoulder is where the cause of the condition isn’t known. Approximately 15% of patients think it is related to a minor shoulder injury. It’s also known that diabetes sufferers and those suffering from a thyroid problem are more likely to experience the condition.
Secondary frozen shoulder tends to occur when the shoulder isn’t used for long periods of time. It also classifies those who have had a heart attack or a stroke. Some patients also find that they develop frozen shoulder after having surgery to treat a different shoulder issue.
Research is being carried out to determine the actual cause of the condition and why it occurs.
How can you tell if you have frozen shoulder?
It can be difficult to tell whether you’re suffering from frozen shoulder given that the majority of shoulder injuries produce a lot of pain. However, there are some stand-out symptoms which could suggest you’re suffering from the condition. These include:
- Pain and tightness around the shoulder area
- Pain felt at the back of the wrists
- A tight feeling when trying to light the arm or carry out overhead activities
- Over time the symptoms will worsen
If you have any of the above symptoms, it’s important to contact a shoulder specialist without delay. The earlier the condition is treated, the sooner you can enjoy being pain-free.
What are the most effective treatments?
Depending upon the severity of the condition and how early you seek treatment, you may get away with at-home treatment. This will consist of pain relief and various exercises to improve functionality.
One of the mainstays of treatment is ultrasound assessment of the shoulder with a guided injection, but, if the problem is severe, surgery could be the best course of action. It’s important to realise that there is no right treatment approach for everyone. Each patient requires an individual treatment plan based upon the severity of the condition.
It is estimated that one million people in the UK suffer from frozen shoulder each year and in a 2013 UK study into people living with the condition, pain, inconvenience and loss of mobility were all identified as key themes. Participants also identified confusion and anxiety over diagnosis and treatment as being a significant factor and felt that specialist consultation brought more ‘definitive diagnosis, relief from anxiety and usually self-rated improvement’.
If you suspect you have frozen shoulder, don’t suffer from the pain for years to come and seek diagnosis and treatment from a shoulder specialist as early as possible.