Treating frozen shoulder conservatively can be a challenge, right? Any experienced clinician knows that adhesive capsulitis can affect anyone without warning. When it does, its not your run-of-the-mill ache or pain. In fact, the pain from this condition is often overwhelming and unrelenting. There have even been comparisons to having a baby…and the pain from birthing was preferred! Even though it is extremely painful, the worst part is the loss of function that accompanies this disease in the second to third month. Until this stage, most anyone can deal with the “pain” aspect. However, what is difficult to handle is the sudden loss of arm motion that usually happens around the eighth to twelfth week.
Individuals in this loss-of-motion phase hopefully have been formally diagnosed by a qualified physician. If they are fortunate, their doctor has referred them to an experienced physical therapist with expertise in treating this disease. However, the unfortunate get referred to the “clinic down the street” and end up getting the run-of-the-mill, standard frozen shoulder exercises. Usually some initial motion is recovered, but at the expense of great pain. Its not surprising that a lot of patients stop going after a few painful visits. Who wants to pay for a bunch of torture sessions with little results?
If you happen to be one of the lucky few to get a PT specializing in treating frozen shoulder, then you will likely hear him or her utter such terms as “active release”, “acupressure”, and “joint mobilization”, to name a few. If not, then the best advice is to search around for such an individual who incorporates these types of treatments into their plan of care. Otherwise prepare for some grueling stretch sessions which attempt to force your already inflamed shoulder into submission! Therapists with success treating this condition understand the agony their patients are enduring and approach treatment in a much gentler manner.
Will there be discomfort with the treatments? Yes, but the pain will be short-lived and an increase in range of motion will be achieved, even on the first visit. A thorough clinician will also take into account the patients’ functional goals and try to focus on these first. Achieving functions such as tucking in a shirt or fastening a bra clasp in the first few visits can do wonders for a clients’ outlook on life and future therapy. These functions can be achieved without gaining full ROM, although full range of motion will be a goal of any good care plan.
In summary, the best advice for anyone with adhesive capsulitis is to do their “due diligence” in finding a qualified physical therapist who has knowledge and experience in treating frozen shoulder.