“Frozen shoulder” is a term most would have heard of yet this familiar condition comes with its fair share of myths surrounding it too.
But before delving deeper into these myths and debunking them, it is first important to understand what exactly a frozen shoulder is.
Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a condition in which the shoulder capsule thickens, causing it to become stiff and tight. Thick bands of tissue develop and less synovial fluid becomes present in the joint, making it difficult to move the shoulder freely and comfortably. Severe pain and stiffness occur as a result.
The condition usually develops in three main stages:
You will experience more and more pain gradually and your shoulder starts to lose range of motion as the pain worsens. This freezing stage typically lasts from 6 weeks to 3 months.
Pain may improve in this stage, although the stiffness persists. It lasts for 4 to 6 months, during which performing daily activities may prove to be difficult.
The range of motion in the shoulder slowly improves and may slowly return to normal anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.
Now that you understand more about frozen shoulder, it is time to know what is the truth and what is simply, a myth.
1. Only older people develop a frozen shoulder
While frozen shoulder commonly affects those who are older, between the ages of 40 and 60, it can also develop in younger people.
The exact cause of a frozen shoulder is unknown but some factors may put you more at risk regardless of your age. These include medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease, and if your shoulder has been immobilised for a period of time following an upper limb injury, fracture or surgery.
2. Frozen shoulder can be prevented
As the primary cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, it would also mean that it is not possible to prevent it from developing.
On the bright side though, you can always minimise the complications by doing frequent exercises and stretches to reduce stiffness and pain. However, take note not to overdo it and only as the pain allows.
3. Frozen shoulder treatment does not include surgery
An orthopaedic doctor in Singapore would usually recommend conservative treatments first, such as taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and doing physical therapy to stretch the shoulder and improve flexibility. Steroid injections can also be considered to improve symptoms.
However, if symptoms do not improve, surgery may be required and is generally offered to patients during the “frozen” stage. This involves shoulder arthroscopy, a keyhole procedure to remove scar tissue and release the stiffened joint capsule, followed by manipulation under anaesthesia.
4. There is no need to treat a frozen shoulder since symptoms come and go on their own
If left untreated, a frozen shoulder can cause persistent pain that may be hard to bear, loss of mobility, reduced range of motion and muscle weakness that results in difficulty completing daily tasks. These symptoms may persist for a long time, and affect sleep and quality of life.
Hence, it is advisable to seek treatment early to prevent your condition from worsening and to get back to doing what you love as soon as possible.
Reach out to us today if you suspect that you are suffering from a frozen shoulder and let our orthopaedic doctor, Dr Poh, help you enjoy a better quality of life.