Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually, worsen over time and then resolve, usually within one to three years.
The shoulder is made up of the shoulderblade (also called the scapula), the collar bone, and the top part of the upper bone of the arm which is called the humerus. The rounded head of the humerus meets the scapula at a shallow cup in the shoulderblade called the glenoid. Because the glenoid is not a deep structure, the rounded head of the humerus does not fit snugly within it and so glides around. This ease of gliding and movement is what contributes to the flexibility and large working range of the shoulder joint as a whole. The shoulder joint is flexible, but unstable because of its flexibility and is therefore easily dislocated. It is stabilised by the action of muscles that lie over and under the joint, as well as the ligaments that tie the bones together.
The shoulder is also stabilised by the joint capsule of the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint. The joint capsule is a sheath that arises from tissue overlying the bones of the shoulderblade and the upper arm. The joint capsule is responsible for maintaining the health of the cartilage that composes the shoulder joint as well as ensuring separation of the joint space from the outside environment. Typically, the joint capsule of the shoulder or any other joint contains synovial fluid in the joint space- a lubricating liquid that minimises the effect of pressure and loading, which improves the movement of cartilaginous surfaces, and which promotes the health of the joint.
Frozen shoulder is the common-language name for adhesive capsulitis, a condition in which inflammation of the shoulder joint capsule results in the formation of adhesions. These adhesions are infiltrations of tissue called fibroblasts, which form inappropriate linkages between the different surfaces of the shoulder joint which make movements stiff and painful. The formation of these adhesions can also result in the swelling of the joint, making it painful to touch, move, and use. Because the shoulder is an inherently unstable joint, it is prone to damage and distress as the result of movement, loading, reaching, and external trauma. The immediate and accumulative effects of these physical obligations can result in an inflammatory response that becomes persistent and painful.
Management of your discomfort depends on its causative factors, how it feels and changes during the day, what makes it better and worse, and the length of time you have been experiencing that pain. All of these factors will be addressed in your initial assessment, which is the first step toward managing and minimising any pain or discomfort. The treatment you receive will be tailored to address the specific cause of your discomfort, and will focus on minimising pain, maximising your ability to move pain-free, and developing a plan to minimise the risk of a flare-up in the future.
At Atlas Physio, we will provide you with education, structured management, and ongoing monitoring of your pain both in-clinic and out. Contact us to arrange an assessment, and to take the first step on a course of corrective care today.