Frozen Shoulder Meltdown: When Surgery Thaws Inflammation & Restores Mobility

What Is My Shoulder Frozen?

Frozen shoulder is a condition affecting the shoulder that causes pain and inflammation and limits the range of motion. Often referred to as adhesive capsulitis, this condition can occur after injury or trauma to the shoulder joint and surrounding structures. Frozen shoulder also appears in cases of overuse injuries like bursitis and tendonitis. The exact cause is unknown, but is linked to certain factors, including female gender, diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and genetics. Usually affecting middle-aged individuals, symptoms include disabling shoulder pain, especially at night, shoulder stiffness, and restricted mobility. These symptoms inhibit quality of life and activities of daily living, for instance, reaching overhead, carrying items, and eating.

Diagnosing your shoulder issue

Orthopedic surgeons will often evaluate a frozen shoulder and make a diagnosis based on several factors. Primarily based on physical examination findings, which highlight pain and limited range of motion through a range of shoulder movements. Sometimes, healthcare providers will utilize an injection test where an anesthetic is injected into the shoulder, and the response indicates the diagnosis. Shoulder impingement will not improve after an anesthetic injection test. Imaging, including x-rays and MRI, can exclude other concomitant problems like a rotator cuff tear.

Treatment option to get you moving

There are many options available to treat a frozen shoulder. Treatment is primarily focused on treating the pain and restoring shoulder mobility. Physical therapy (PT) is the mainstay in the initial phases. A combination of stretching exercises to increase the range of motion is used to lengthen the capsule and soft tissues, followed by strength-building exercises. Many patients are provided stretching programs to complete at home. Ice therapy is often recommended to relieve pain and discomfort associated with a frozen shoulder, followed by anti-inflammatories. Steroidal injections administered by an orthopedic specialist are frequently utilized to reduce inflammation inside the shoulder joint.

Surgical interventions toward a pain-free lifestyle

Innovative surgical techniques are available for refractory cases of frozen shoulder. Orthopedic specialists are trained in a minimally invasive surgical (MIS) procedure known as arthroscopy, which can be performed to release the shoulder capsule, relieving the restriction. Through tiny incisions and a fiber-optic camera, specialists can precisely remove scar tissue and free up the shoulder capsule, improving range of motion with minimal downtown and a faster recovery. Nerve block use in this procedure often allows avoidance of general anesthesia, facilitating same-day completion. PT directed by a specialist would follow surgery to maximize the results and ensure an optimal range-of-motion and pain-free outcome.

Other modalities that can help

Aimed at the root cause of frozen shoulder, manipulation of the shoulder tissues while fully relaxed is another option. Manipulation under anesthesia (MUA), is a procedure where a doctor can take the shoulder joint through a series of stretches that are otherwise not permitted while awake. During the procedure, the tight connective tissue and scarring are forced to stretch and loosen, increasing the range of motion and relieving the restriction. Supervised PT and home stretching programs are followed for several weeks after the procedure.

A final roadmap to mobility and pain relief

Frozen shoulders can cause a great degree of stiffness, pain, and lifestyle modifications. However, there are many effective treatment solutions. PT with targeted stretching and strengthening exercises can improve flexibility and range of motion. Anti-inflammatory medications and steroid joint injections can relieve pain and inflammation. If these approaches don’t lead to optimal relief, other options include MUA and minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. Exploring these therapies with a doctor specializing in orthopedics is essential to achieve the best outcome and lead a pain-free, unrestricted lifestyle.


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