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  • Dr. Lilly Koh

Why is my shoulder feeling painful and stiff all of a sudden?

Frozen shoulder is a term commonly used to describe Adhesive Capsulitis. This condition is characterized by stiffness, pain, and inflammation in your shoulder joint that results in significant loss of range of motion. Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually and will worsen over time before full recovery in a process that can last up to 2 years.

It is still unclear as to what causes frozen shoulder to occur but there are certain genetic and environmental factors that places individuals at a higher risk of developing the condition. Adults over the age of 40 years old, females, those with comorbidities such as diabetes, thyroid disease, stroke and Parkinson’s disease are at the highest risk. Those who experience an injury or undergo surgery to the arm or shoulder that requires prolonged immobilization are at risk of developing a frozen shoulder as well.

We generally categorize the process of frozen shoulder into 3 phases with each lasting a number of months:

1. Acute/Freezing – You develop a gradual onset of pain in the shoulder with movement, especially into overhead positions, becoming limited. Pain at night is also usually present.

2. Adhesive/Frozen – Your pain may begin improving, but the stiffness will worsen and performing activities of daily living becomes much more difficult.

3. Resolution/Thawing – Your shoulder range of motion will begin improving and pain will continue to improve.

A frozen shoulder can cause many limitations in your day to day activities. Activities that are usually hard for someone with a frozen shoulder to accomplish could include washing/combing your hair, reaching behind your back, and reaching overhead. Here at Walnut Physical Therapy and Performance, our goal is to help you restore movement in your shoulder, manage and reduce your pain, and provide education as well as an individualized home exercise program to optimize your recovery. Your treatment session will include hands-on manual therapy and a variety of stretching and strengthening exercises. We will work patiently together to tackle this challenging condition and get you back to performing daily activities without pain and limitations.

-Dr. Lilly Koh, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS

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