Finally getting around to writing about my frozen shoulder...
Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where the connective tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and stiff.
The Mayo Clinic's definition of frozen shoulder:
The bones, ligaments and tendons that make up your shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting its movement.I picture it as this sticky stuff that grows all around the shoulder joint like the webs that Spider-Man throws.
The adhesions (or the sticky stuff) result in stiffness and chronic pain in your shoulder joint. Frozen shoulder also results in limited range of motion. Loss of range of motion makes it difficult to do simple tasks such as reaching for a parking ticket, blow drying your hair, putting on sunscreen, and even putting on/taking off a t-shirt. There is also a lot of pain involved.
There are three stages of the frozen shoulder:
1. The freezing stage
2. The frozen stage
3. The thawing stage
They say the thawing stage takes about two years. The thawing stage is the last stage after the shoulder has very restricted range of motion. I was not going to wait that long for it to resolve on its own and I don't think it will resolve completely without therapy.
Last June, I strained a muscle in my left arm when moving files from one file cabinet to another during the last week of school. I was also on this medicine for a few weeks that had a side effect of joint pain. By the time I left for Italy, my arm was hurting badly. Lifting luggage did not help, although I babied my arm as much as possible and tried to pull my luggage with my right arm only. I did carry a bag at times on my left shoulder though.
I really have no idea what caused my frozen shoulder, but by the time I returned from Italy, I was in a lot of pain. I noticed that my range of motion started to become restricted after returning from Italy. That caused more pain. Of course I was busy with the beginning of the year school stuff when I returned from my trip. I also figured it was probably just a pulled muscle that needed time to heal. I finally called to make an appointment with one of the best Orthopedic Specialists on the island in mid-August. The earliest appointment I could get with him was the first week of October. By this time my shoulder was approaching the frozen stage.
After having x-rays done to rule out other causes, he diagnosed my condition as frozen shoulder. He discussed two options with me. I could either start physical therapy right away, which would be very painful and might or might give me back full range of motion or I could have a manipulation procedure done under anesthesia and then start physical therapy. The manipulation procedure breaks up (or rips apart) the adhesions and scar tissue.
I decided on the sure thing and went with the manipulation procedure since I could end up having that done anyways if the physical therapy did not work by itself. I also wanted to get my range of motion back as soon as possible.
I have never heard of frozen shoulder before being diagnosed but have been amazed to find out how many other people have had this condition. Frozen shoulder seems to occur more often with women (70%) than men and frozen shoulder seems to affect mostly those 40 years old and older. You probably know at least one other person (besides me) who has had a frozen shoulder.
People who have experienced prolonged immobility of their shoulder are at higher risk of developing frozen shoulder. Also people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, lung disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease, thyroid problems, Parkinson's disease are at a higher risk for frozen shoulder. Those with diabetes experience a much longer recovery time.
The most important thing I learned during this experience is to NOT baby your arm/shoulder if it is injured. Continue to stretch and use your arm as much as possible and see a doctor immediately so that you can be given exercises or start physical therapy before it begins to freeze.
But before I go, you are probably wondering why I brought this up right now. Well, unfortunately my arm started to bother me again last week. I am back in physical therapy. My range of motion has also begun to become restricted. Trying to sleep at night is the most difficult, especially since I usually sleep on that arm (which my therapist said not to do - easier said than done). At first I thought it was a frozen shoulder again, but my PT thinks it might be something different this time. Just what I need at this point in the year. At least this happened before leaving for Italy. I just hope I can get this resolved in the next few weeks.