Minor inconveniences happen to us every day. In most cases, we ignore anything that doesn’t drastically affect our daily life. Frozen shoulder in its early stages is like that. Yet have you ever wondered what could go wrong if you ignored a frozen shoulder? We got all the information you need so keep reading to find out!
Table of Contents
Frozen Shoulder Overview
With a frozen shoulder, you will have stiff shoulders that hurt when you try to move them around in a big range of motion.
In most cases, the arm feels stuck and can’t move beyond a certain point. This can be true even if you can tolerate the pain. This is because a frozen shoulder occurs when the tissue surrounding the shoulder joint capsule can swell up because of inflammation.
An inflamed tissue hurts when it moves and has significantly less range of motion because of the swelling. Frozen shoulder is also called ‘adhesive capsulitis’ in medical terminology, which translates to ‘sticky inflammation of the capsule’.
Frozen Shoulder Test
It is hard to be certain of a frozen shoulder from the pain alone. Preferably, you want to consult a physical therapist who can accurately evaluate and diagnose your condition. In most cases, a frozen shoulder can be diagnosed with a physical examination.
Still, at times it can be difficult to differentiate a frozen shoulder from other shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff injury. In such cases, your doctor might ask you for some additional imaging tests for the diagnosis.
You can also do some simple movement tests that can give you a good idea of whether you have a frozen shoulder or not. These are by no means a substitute for a proper evaluation by a physician but you can do these within the comforts of your home.
True Arm Raise – Try to raise both of your arms straight up without tilting your body. If you can’t raise the arm with the afflicted shoulder to the same level as your other arm, that is a good indicator of a potential problem. Pain in one shoulder, while you raise both arms to the same level, can also be a sign of a frozen shoulder.
I Surrender Test – Stand up with your back pressed against the wall and extend your arms to the sides with elbows bent so that your hands are pointing in front of you. Afterward, you rotate your arms upwards while keeping both of your shoulders at the same level to put them in the surrender position.
If you experience pain and the arm with the affected shoulder doesn’t go all the way up, it is an indicator of a frozen shoulder.
Hand Behind the Back – Attempt to reach behind your back from below using the arm with the afflicted shoulder. Your goal should be to touch your backbone with the affected hand. Start from the hip level and slowly move your arm up to the middle of your back.
If you cannot reach your back or experience pain in the shoulder while doing so, you could likely be suffering from a frozen shoulder. You can also judge the severity of the problem depending on how high you can touch.
Only being able to touch the hips means a very limited range of motion, the lower-middle back means a slightly limited range of motion and the middle-upper back means nearly no limitation in range of motion. Still, if you feel pain while doing it, it is a bad sign.
In case you think something is wrong, you should see a physiotherapist who can give you a proper diagnosis and a treatment plan.
What Is the Main Cause of Frozen Shoulder?
The exact cause of the frozen shoulder is still unclear. It is commonly seen in people over 40 years of age. Females and people with previous shoulder injuries are more likely to develop a frozen shoulder.
Most often a frozen shoulder can develop after a long period of not moving the shoulder. This is often due to injuries such as broken arms that lock the shoulders in place for a long time. An estimated 10% to 20% of diabetic patients also develop a frozen shoulder.
Signs That Frozen Shoulder Is Starting To Thaw
A frozen shoulder can last a very long time if not treated. It can take you anywhere between one and three years to recover naturally. Over many months, the shoulders’ range of motion slowly returns. If you start noticing your shoulder having a greater range of motion, it means it is starting to thaw.
What Happens If You Don’t Treat Frozen Shoulder?
It is heavily advised to undergo treatment in the event of a frozen shoulder. However, if you choose to ignore treatment, the frozen shoulder will eventually recover on its own. Natural recovery can take significantly longer though and in some cases, it can even worsen over time and never fully go away.
On top of that, it will be hard to carry on with your daily activities due to excessive pain and constant discomfort. It is in your best interest to undergo physiotherapy and medication to heal your frozen shoulder as soon as possible.
In some rare cases, the frozen shoulder might not get better with or without treatment for years. If no treatment improves your shoulder for over a year, you will need to undergo surgery to fix the issue.
How Does PT Help a Frozen Shoulder?
Physiotherapy can significantly reduce the time it takes to recover from a frozen shoulder. Usually, the physiotherapist will assign you exercises that you can perform at home without any equipment. These exercises will help stretch and strengthen the shoulder to restore a full range of motion over time.
Do’s and Don’ts for Frozen Shoulder
The best practice is to seek medical attention instead of ignoring a frozen shoulder. This will help you recover a lot faster and spare you from constant pain and discomfort. You should also avoid putting too much weight on your shoulder and not leave the arm immobilized for too long.
How to sleep with a frozen shoulder
Ideally, you want to sleep in a position that puts the least amount of weight on the affected shoulder. You can try sleeping on the unaffected side or sleeping on your back. Any position is fine as long as it does not put weight on the affected shoulder.
Can a frozen shoulder go away on its own?
A frozen shoulder can go away on its own but it isn’t guaranteed. If left untreated, the condition can worsen and become permanent.
Can you make a frozen shoulder worse?
As long as you follow the physio’s advice and work on your mobility, you’re not going to make your frozen shoulder worse. While some exercises may be uncomfortable, they will have a long-term benefit.
Can frozen shoulder be permanent?
Frozen shoulder can continue for a very long time. At times, it can last for years even with physiotherapy. In such cases, you will have to undergo surgery for relief.