People over 40 years of age who are recovering from surgery, stroke or other injuries are at risk for developing shoulder stiffness, numbness, pain, and reduced range of motion. Adhesive capsulitis, more commonly known as Frozen Shoulder, happens more often in women than men and is most common in those who have chronic diseases, like diabetes. Early detection and treatment may help slow the progression of the condition and speed healing.

Your shoulder joint is encased in a capsule of connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule stiffens, scar tissue forms and movement is restricted. Preventive chiropractic care including stretching, gentle range of motion exercises and massage may help prevent frozen shoulder after surgery or injury.

Frozen shoulder typically only occurs on one side and is different from arthritis. Symptoms occur gradually, progress slowly and then get better over time, typically over the course of one to three years. There are three phases to the condition, although individual progression through the process varies.

First is a freezing phase where the primary complaint is a gradual onset of aching in the shoulder, progressing toward acute pain. The pain can be so bad at night as to disrupt sleep. This phase can continue for 2-9 months.

During the frozen phase, the shoulder joint stiffens and continues to be painful. Normal daily tasks such as dressing or driving can be difficult, and loss of muscle tone from lack of use is common.This phase can linger as long as 4-12 months.

The final thawing phase occurs as the pain gradually reduces and mobility increases. The range of movement increases and pain gradually decreases. Patients typically endure 5-12 months in this phase.

Frozen Shoulder is caused by the connective tissue around the shoulder stiffening and encapsulating the shoulder joint. Scar tissue builds and increases pressure and inflammation in the shoulder capsule. This inflammation results in a reduced range of motion and stiffness, while the inflammation of the tendons causes sharp pain and shoulder aches.

Doctors may diagnose Frozen Shoulder based on a physical exam, health history, and symptoms alone, or may suggest an X-ray and/or MRI to rule out any other causes.

Frozen shoulder is usually managed conservatively with non-invasive treatments. Chiropractic care focuses on limiting pain and increasing mobility by breaking up scar tissue, reducing stiffness and restoring the range of motion in the affected shoulder. Routine icing, ultrasounds, anti-inflammatory drugs, acupuncture, and electrical therapy can all be used to reduce the pain and inflammation. Continuous use of the muscle and stretching are imperative to improve your shoulder’s physical function. Ideally, preventive chiropractic care for those in a high-risk group will keep your shoulder in top shape before acute symptoms progress.

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