BY LYN JENSEN
Seeking pain relief is a major concern for the overwhelming majority of people who seek out medical care, and while some forms of pain are very easy to diagnose and treat (or perhaps even cure), others we have very limited knowledge on.
A prime example of this is fibromyalgia, where the chronic pain throughout the body can feel so bad it can prevent the patient from performing daily activities or work. Unfortunately, we’re still making progress in how to diagnose and cure fibromyalgia, and the treatments we do have for it can only temporarily relieve the pain. Things become even trickier when we throw frozen shoulders into the mix.
Fibromyalgia is defined as chronic pain throughout the muscles and body, in addition to a difficulty sleeping, fatigue, stiffness in the joints, tingling and numbness, anxiety and stress, and a difficulty concentrating. There are many fibromyalgia patients who have other forms of illnesses or pain in addition to fibromyalgia, and it can be difficult for a doctor to determine if one is causing the other or if they are completely separate. While it’s unfortunate, the same holds true for frozen shoulders.
There’s always that old saying that preventing pain may be better than the cure, but if you’re currently suffering from pain, you’re not likely to get any comfort out of that statement. The definition of a frozen shoulder is inflammation in the joint capsule and peripheral shoulder cartilage that results in consistent pain even when one is not performing any activities.
While frozen shoulders are similar to fibromyalgia in that they produce constant pain that can last anywhere from a few months to several years, and can prevent the sufferer from performing daily, usual activities, frozen shoulders are limited just toe the shoulder region. In order to determine how bad the pain is and what kind of patient care and treatment is therefore needed, you’ll need to follow the development stage of frozen shoulders.
Development of Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulders are a very slow process that is divided into three stages, each of which is slow on its own terms. The first stage is the painful stage, which leads to pain when you move your shoulder. This pain will greatly prohibit how much you can move your shoulder.
The frozen stage is the next stage. The good news about this stage is that the pain will be less intense, but the mad nose is that your shoulder will become noticeably stiff and you won’t begin to move it as much at all. The thawing stage is the final stage, and this is where both the pain and the stiffness will begin to improve. In a matter of months, your shoulder may be completely fine.
The pain and stiffness in frozen shoulders almost always feels worse during the night. Doctors are also confused as to why frozen shoulders happen with people who have fibromyalgia though frozen shoulder is more likely to happen in a patient who has had surgery or an injury in the affected area. Finally, frozen shoulders are more prominent in older women than any other age or gender group.
Complete immobility is more rare in people with frozen shoulder, and limited mobility is far more likely. Examples of things that can lead to frozen shoulder are a broken arm, a stroke, surgery recovery, or a rotator cuff injury. All of these things can immobilize or limit the mobility of your shoulder, leading to a higher risk of frozen shoulder.
There are also some diseases that can lead to frozen shoulder as well. These include, but are not limited to: Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
When being examined by your doctor, he or she will want to check the mobility levels of your shoulder above all else. You’ll be asked to put your arms straight up in the air, to reach across your body, and to reach upward to your back. Each of these methods is effective for a doctor in determining what you can do and what you cannot do with your shoulder.
After following this procedure, your doctor will relax your muscles and move your arm and shoulder for you to determine how much pain you are in. They’ll also conduct imaging tests, such as an MRI or an X-ray, to see if there are any issues in the tissues, bones and/or ligaments. The goal of your doctor in these tests is to find out where your shoulder stands and to protect as much mobility for it as possible, and then to work on improving on the limited mobility that there already is.
One form of treatment for frozen shoulder is medications. Aspirin and Advil, among other medicines, can reduce the amount of pain that is felt. Pain relief and anti-inflammation drugs may also be prescribed by your doctor.
Another option is physical therapy, which will focus on stretching your shoulder to increase blood circulation and restore mobility. Hopefully, these forms of treatments will be able to limit the pain and increase the mobility in the one to two years that frozen shoulder typically lasts.
In the event that the symptoms increase beyond that, you can try things such as steroid injections, which will decrease pain and restore mobility; shoulder manipulation, in which you’ll be given an anesthetic and feel no pain as the doctor works to loosen the tissue in your shoulder by moving around your shoulder (this same method is used to treat bone fractures); and last but not least, surgery, which will remove any bad tissue in your shoulder joint.
The surgery for a frozen shoulder will be conducted with a small, tube instrument that is inserted into an incision made by your doctor in the joint. When all else fails, surgery may be the only other option you have left.