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Frozen Shoulder

The condition of a frozen shoulder, technically known as adhesive capsulitis, has not yet been completely understood. When this happens, the shoulder joint becomes stiff and scarred, drastically reducing movement. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, surrounded by a tissue. The shoulder joint allows more movement than any other joint in the body. But when a patient develops this condition, the capsule that surrounds the shoulder joint contracts and causes pain. The patient forms bands of scar tissue called adhesions. The contraction of the capsule and the formation of the adhesions cause the frozen shoulder to become stiff and movements to cause pain.

Causes of a frozen shoulder

  • Generally the condition occurs with no related injury or apparent cause. There are patients who develop the problem after an injury to the shoulder, but this is not the usual cause. Some risk factors for developing a frozen shoulder are:
  • Age and gender- Frozen shoulder most commonly affects patients between the ages of 40 to 60 years, and it is twice as common in women than in men.
  • Endocrine disorders- Patients with diabetes are at particular risk for developing it. Other endocrine abnormalities, such as thyroid problems, can also lead to the condition.
  • Shoulder trauma or surgery- Patients who sustain a shoulder injury, or undergo surgery on the shoulder can develop a frozen shoulder joint. When injury or surgery is followed by prolonged joint immobilisation, the risk is highest.
  • Other systemic conditions- Several systemic conditions such as heart disease and Parkinson’s disease have also been associated with an increased risk for developing a frozen shoulder.

Typical symptoms
The symptoms of a frozen shoulder can be easily identified by a doctor. The most common ones are:

  • Shoulder pain; usually a dull, nagging pain
  • Restricted movement of the shoulder and pain while moving it
  • Difficulty in activities such as brushing hair, putting on shirts/bras
  • Pain when trying to sleep on the affected shoulder
  • In severe cases, pain travelling down the arm to the elbow

If the pain in the shoulder lasts for more than few days, it’s better to see your doctor.

Stages of a frozen shoulder
Painful stage
The initial stage of the condition when motion is restricted, but the shoulder is not as stiff as in the frozen stage. This stage when pain is maximum typically lasts 6-12 weeks.
Frozen stage
During the frozen stage, the pain usually eases up, but the stiffness worsens. The frozen stage can last 4-6 months.
Thawing stage
The thawing stage is gradual when motion steadily improves, and pain almost disappears, over a lengthy period of time. The thawing stage can last more than a year.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to relieve the pain caused by a frozen shoulder, but that’s a temporary solution. If the pain persists, you may be prescribed corticosteroid shots or injection in the shoulder joint. Physiotherapy can also help you to reduce the stiffness to some extent.

Yoga can help you recover fast
Stretching exercises are usually enough to ease a frozen shoulder and its pain, and even if you don’t do anything you should recover from the condition in 18-24 months. However, yoga is known to have aided patients in quick recovery. The particular asana which needs to be done is known as Parvatasana. To do it you need to start by sitting in Padmasana. Then interlock your fingers, and stretch your hands vertically above your head. Keep your head bent forward with your chin on your breastbone. Stretch up your arms as you pull up your shoulder-blades. Your palms must be facing upwards. Maintain the pose for a minute or so with deep, slow breathing. Now uncross and recross your legs the other way. Now interlock your fingers and repeat the pose, with your back erect.

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