Home How to Treat Pain Caused by a Frozen Shoulder
How to Treat Pain Caused by a Frozen Shoulder
How to Treat Pain Caused by a Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a painful condition that affects your shoulder joint. It causes excruciating pain and causes stiffness in the shoulder. Anatomically, your shoulder is made up of three bones: upper arm, shoulder blade, and collarbone. These bones collectively form the ball-and-socket joint that is held together with connective tissues. These tissues are known as the shoulder capsule.

In a frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule becomes excessively thick, thus restricting movement. The condition of a frozen shoulder may take anywhere between 1 and 3 years to cure.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
The first and most prominent symptom of a frozen shoulder is pain and stiffness. You will persistently feel a dull pain in one shoulder, making it very difficult to move it. Gradually, the pain will spread to the upper arm as well. In most cases, the pain worsens at night.

Typically, in a frozen shoulder, the symptoms experienced can be categorized into the following 3 stages as shown below:

  • Initial or Freezing stage
    You experience a pain in your shoulder every time you try to move it. Gradually, the pain starts getting more intense, especially at night. The movement of your arm and shoulder gets restricted to a certain extent. This stage generally lasts from 6 to 9 months.
  • Frozen Stage
    The shoulder stiffness increases at this stage. The movement of the shoulder gets completely restricted and the pain interferes with your everyday activities. This stage lasts from 3 to 12 months.
  • Recovery or Thawing stage
    At this stage, the symptoms begin to go away, and the range of motion starts to go back to normal. This may take between 6 months and 2 years.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment
The most effective treatment for frozen shoulder involves controlling pain and stiffness and preserving the range of motion in the best possible way.  For this, any one of the following treatment methods can be prescribed by your doctor.

Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or aspirin can be used for easing the pain and inflammation. In case the pain is excruciating, your doctor may prescribe some stronger doses of NSAIDs or pain-relieving medicines.

Taking the help of a physical therapist, you can define a set of exercises that can improve your mobility over time. These are basically stretching exercises that serve as an effective frozen shoulder treatment. It is important to properly warm up your shoulder before performing these exercises. It is best to take a hot bath for about 10-15 minutes as that can loosen up the stiffness in your shoulder a little. On the other hand, you can also use a hot towel or a heating pad to warm your shoulder. While performing these exercises, stretch to the point of tension, but not pain as that can aggravate the condition.

Surgical and Other Procedures
Mostly, frozen shoulders get better on their own. Simple strengthening exercises can help to speed up the recovery process. However, in case the symptoms persist for longer than a year without showing any signs of improvement, your doctor may prescribe any one of the following treatments:

  • Steroid Injections
    Taking corticosteroids injections directly into the shoulder joint can help to alleviate pain. Also, these injections can improve the movement of the shoulder, especially if taken during the initial stage of the problem.
  • Joint Distention
    This method involves injecting sterile water into the shoulder capsule. This eases the tissue and helps to improve the movement.
  • Shoulder manipulation
    This frozen shoulder treatment is performed under the effect of local anesthesia; thus, no pain or discomfort is experienced. After the anesthesia, the doctor moves the shoulder in different directions to help loosen up the tissues and return the movement.
  • Surgery
    This treatment option is very rarely used. In case nothing else seems to be working, your doctor might recommend undergoing a surgery in which the scar tissues and adhesions are surgically removed.

Alternative Remedies for Frozen Shoulder Treatment

  • Acupuncture
    Acupuncture is a Chinese technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific parts of the body. These needles are inserted for 20-30 minutes, during which, they are manipulated or moved. This method is relatively painless.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
    This treatment involves inserting light electric current into the key areas of the body. Electrodes are taped on your skin through which the current is passed. It is believed that this technique blocks the pain fibers that carry the pain signals, thus relieving the discomfort.

When to Seek Medical Help?
In case the symptoms persist for longer than usual, it is imperative to consult your doctor for frozen shoulder treatment. The doctor will examine the shoulder joint and check for the range of motion. Depending on the severity of the problem, he will prescribe an appropriate method for shoulder pain relief.