Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
The main symptoms of frozen shoulder are stiffness, pain and decreased range of motion in your shoulder and upper arm.
You will often be unable to lift your arm over your head or away from your body nor will you be able to rotate it inwards; eventually you may not be able to move it at all. The lack of movement in your shoulder joint will interfere with your everyday tasks like getting dressed, driving, working; even completing simple things like reaching behind your back to scratch it. Muscle spasms in your rotator cuff muscles and swelling of your tendons will also limit your ability to move.
Pain is generally experienced over the front and sides of your shoulder and upper arm area (around your deltoid, biceps brachii and rotator cuff muscles) which can radiate down to your elbow and wrist, or around your upper back from your trapezius muscle, because of the restricted joint space. You will experience pain with movement (such as trying to reach across your body) and eventually at rest. However depending on the cause of your frozen shoulder, it can be referred from other areas like your neck, heart, diaphragm, liver or spleen.
Weakness in your shoulder, upper arm and back muscles will occur over time from lack of use; this can create an imbalance in your muscle strength (as the stronger muscles have to compensate for the weaker ones) and cause muscular strains and alignment issues.
Many people will experience depression, anxiety and psychological stress because of the secondary effects of the constant pain from frozen shoulder over the long term (stop working which leads to financial stress, stop participating in social and sports activities).
Some people have even experienced an increase in body odor as they find it harder to reach and clean their armpit areas. Often there can be changes in your local nerves to your sweat glands.
Progression of Frozen Shoulder
Stage 1 - The "Freezing" painful phase
You will experience a slow onset of mild pain in a generalized area of your shoulder that increases with movement and eventually at rest. Inflammation and tenderness around your joint as a result of muscle spasms and scar tissue that binds your shoulder tissues tighter creates stiffness, which will decrease your range of motion. A vicious circle then develops - the lack of shoulder movement (from trying to protect your shoulder and decrease pain) increases scar tissue development, which decreases the space in your capsule and limits your movement, creating even more stiffness. Pain is often worse at night when sleeping and/or lying on your sore side. This phase of frozen shoulder can last between 1-9 months.
Stage 2 - The "Frozen" stiff and adhesive phase
You will often find a little improvement in pain which will ease over time. This will be more localized, with tenderness around the ball of your shoulder joint. As your inflammation starts to decrease, your scar tissue will get worse and harder, which will increase your stiffness and can limit your movement to an entirely "frozen" state. Discomfort will continue to be worse with extreme ranges of movement or at night (interfering with sleep). You will often have as much as 50% less movement than in your other arm and not be able to raise it more than 40 degrees in any direction. This phase of frozen shoulder can last between 4 - 12 months.
Stage 3 - The "Thawing" and recovery phase
In the last phase, your shoulder pain decreases drastically, and your scar tissue begins to loosen. As a result your stiffness goes away slowly and your full range of shoulder movement returns gradually. External rotation (turning outward) of the upper arm improves first, followed by abduction (moving up and away from the body) and internal rotation (turning inward). This phase of frozen shoulder can last between 5 - 36 months.
Surgery may be required if you experience no improvement within 12 - 18 months of following a treatment plan from your doctor.
Should You Seek Medical Attention?
See a doctor immediately if:
- your shoulder is hot and/or extremely swollen
- you have severe pain, numbness and/or a fever
- you cannot lift your arm straight out to the side
- your symptoms prolong for over 2 weeks after trying conservative and home treatments
Treating Your Frozen Shoulder
If you heal your frozen shoulder properly, your chance of recurrance or chronic shoulder conditions later on is greatly reduced. Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ will promote blood flow to heal your labrum, ligaments, and tendons in the rotator cuff and glenohumeral joint faster and more completely than any other methods available.
Freezie Wrap® Cold Compression Therapy
To decrease inflammation and relieve the pain of frozen shoulder doctor's recommend cold compression therapy. Treating your shoulder pain with cold compression as needed will relieve pain and will reduce, or even eliminate, the need for pain medication that affects your entire body and can cause problems is used for a long period of time.
The Shoulder Freezie Wrap® is the cold compression tool you need to treat your frozen shoulder pain in an effective and convenient way.
The deep cooling effect provided by the Shoulder Freezie Wrap® gently numbs your nerves to reduce pain naturally!
The Shoulder Freezie Wrap® uses a supercharged cooling gel pack, that chills in the fridge, not in the freezer like ice or other freezer packs, giving you deep cold therapy without the risk of 'cold burns' or cryoburn. The medical-grade wrap keeps the cold directly off your skin preventing cryoburn while delivering cold right where you need it.
Once the pain of your frozen shoulder has been reduced it is important to begin BFST® to improve elasticity and loosen up the area. BFST® will improve blood flow and relax muscles that have become stiff and tense because you are not using your shoulder properly.
Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ BFST® nourishes and strengthenes your shoulder joint tissue and surrounding area. Using BFST® will speed your recovery and heal your rotator cuff more completely preparing it for strengthening exercises. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out which exercises are appropriate for your situation.
Inferno Wrap® Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™
The shoulder joint naturally receives a limited blood supply. When it's stiff and difficult to move the blood flow is reduced even further, limiting your body's natural ability to heal itself.
By treating your rotator cuff with BFST® you can increase your body's blood supply to the shoulder and increase your body's natural healing power.
An Inferno Wrap® for your shoulder is the tool you need to treat your sore shoulder because it speeds healing and relaxes the surrounding muscles. With BFST®, tissues are safely and gently stimulated. Your body responds with a rapid increase in blood flow to the area, increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to injured tissue to promote healing. Our Inferno Wrap® gives you the most effective, non-invasive, non-addictive, pain relief and healing with no side effect.
In addition, the improved blood flow whisks away dead cells and toxins that have built up from injury, scar tissue, and lack of blood flow. When you stop moving your arm and shoulder, your muscles and other tissue can become weak and dead cells and toxins in the area can cause further tissue deterioration - this can lead to atrophy (muscle weakness and/or deterioration). By clearing the area of toxins and increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients to your muscle and other tissue, the risk of atrophy is greatly reduced. Keeping your upper arm, shoulder and rotator cuff tissue as healthy as possible throughout the healing process will allow you to improve shoulder strength again once your pain has gone and your tear has healed.
With these easy-to-use, home therapies, cold compression and BFST®, you will notice significantly reduced pain, faster healing, and an incredible improvement in your rotator cuff range of motion.
During your recovery, you may have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your rotator cuff area until your pain and inflammation settle, and you gain more mobility and strength in your shoulder. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!
Surgical Procedures for Frozen Shoulder
Manipulation Under Anesthesia
In rare cases, if the usual treatment options have been unsuccessful, manipulation under anesthesia may be required. Athough this procedure requires anesthesia, no actual surgery involved, meaning incisions are not made when a manipulation is performed. The doctor moves the arm to break up the scar tissue within and surrounding the joint. This is a painful procedure as it requires tearing of the scar tissue, but you will be able to move your shoulder joint more after the manipulation.
Follow up the manipulation with cold compression therapy immediately. Continue with cold compression until the pain and inflammation has been reduced. Once inflammation, swelling, and bruising has been calmed you can begin BFST® treatments to maintain healthy tissue in your arm and shoulder, reduce the risk of atrophy, and improve the health of the tendons and ligaments that have been damaged during the manipulation procedure.
Arthroscopic Capsular Release
Alternatively, or in conjunction with a manipulation, an arthroscope can be inserted into the joint to cut through the scar tissue. This procedure is called an arthroscopic capsular release. Surgical capsular release of a frozen shoulder is rarely necessary, but it is extremely useful in cases of frozen shoulder that do not respond to physical therapy or regular exercises done at home. If surgery is performed, immediate physical therapy following the capsular release is of utmost importance. If rehabilitation does not begin soon after arthroscopic capsular release, the chance of the frozen shoulder returning is quite high.
Please be aware that this information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.