Ask the Sports Doc: Frozen shoulder

Published 8:35 pm Wednesday, June 9, 2010

EG Asks: I am a 54-year-old, right-hand-dominant male who has been having shoulder pain for the past six months. I can’t play golf anymore without pain. My family doctor diagnosed me with a frozen shoulder and has given me one cortisone injection. I am also in a physical therapy program.

My shoulder continues to lose motion and have pain almost every time move my shoulder. What else can I try and will I end up needing surgery?

Dr. Patel writes: Dear EG, a frozen shoulder can be difficult to treat. Most frozen shoulders however get better with some conservative treatment.

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A frozen shoulder develops when the capsule around the shoulder joint thickens and gets stiff. This in turn causes limitation in range of motion and subsequently inflammation of the rotator cuff muscle.

More than 90 percent of patients treated conservatively get better with the diagnosis of frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulders are also more common in diabetic patients. Every patient I see in my office with the possibility of a frozen shoulder gets an X-ray to make sure there is no arthritis in the joint because arthritis can also limit range of motion.

Once a diagnosis of a frozen shoulder is made, I actually inject the shoulder in two different locations. One injection is placed in the joint and the other above the joint. The goal of the injections is to alleviate inflammation and also loosen the capsule to allow for more motion.

In addition to injections, an aggressive physical therapy is just as important in treating the shoulder. If physical therapy and injections don’t work, sometimes gentle manipulation can help. Surgery should be last resort for this condition.

Also, of note, there is a 50 percent chance the opposite shoulder may get affected within five years of the affected side.