Simple Activities Like Fastening A Bra Or Taking A Book Off An Overhead Shelf Can Be Impossible When You Have A Frozen Shoulder But What Is A Frozen Shoulder Exactly
Frozen shoulder is a common disorder that causes pain, stiffness, and loss of normal range of motion in the shoulder. The resulting disability can be serious, and the condition tends to get worse with time if it’s not treated. It affects mainly people ages 40 to 60 women more often than men.
We don’t fully understand what causes a frozen shoulder, but an inflammatory process is probably involved. Sometimes freezing occurs because the shoulder has been immobilized for a long time by injury, surgery, or illness. In many cases the cause is obscure. Fortunately, the shoulder can usually be unfrozen, though full recovery takes time and lots of self-help.
The shoulder has a wider and more varied range of motion than any other part of the body. It pivots mainly on a ball-and-socket arrangement called the glenohumeral joint, which joins the top of the humerus to a scooped-out part of the scapula called the glenoid cavity.
Anatomy of a frozen shoulder
Normally, the head of the humerus moves smoothly in the glenoid cavity, a depression in the scapula. A shoulder is “frozen” when the capsule protecting the glenohumeral joint contracts and stiffens. Scar tissue may also form between the joint capsule and the head of the humerus.
Do Not Skip Your Physical Therapy Sessions
One of the most important aspects of your treatment plan is physical therapy. Your therapist will teach you exercises that focus on stretching the joint capsule. When your condition improves, you can move on to strengthening exercises.
If you have a frozen shoulder, make sure you attend all physical therapy sessions to keep your progress on track. The first few sessions are also critical because this is when they evaluate your condition and teach you exercises. With your therapists guidance, youll learn how far you can push yourself to avoid straining your shoulder when you do them at home. Additionally, dont get ahead of yourself and move on to strengthening exercises without the approval of your doctor and therapist.
Previous Shoulder Injury Or Surgery
Frozen shoulder can sometimes develop after a shoulder or arm injury, such as a fracture, or after having surgery to your shoulder area.
This may partly be a result of keeping your arm and shoulder still for long periods of time during your recovery. Your shoulder capsule may tighten up from lack of use.
Because of this, it’s very important not to ignore a painful shoulder injury and to always seek medical advice.
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Why Do I Have Shoulder Pain At Night Only
While this nighttime shoulder pain cannot always be explained, a lot of the pain comes down to:
- Being still at night
- Unrelieved tension and stress from the day
- The sleeping position you choose
- Your mattress
During the day, the shoulder is being actively used while you are in a vertical position. The tendons engage and are pulled downward by gravity, which allows space to be made in the muscle groups in the shoulder. This additional space allows for an increase in blood flow and oxygen that alleviates the stiffness and pain that would be present otherwise.
When you lay down to rest or sleep at night, you are generally in a horizontal position. This removes the effect of gravity and allows the shoulder muscles to relax. The lack of movement and the relaxation of the muscles allows the fluids in your joints to settle and decreases the flow of blood, allowing the joint to become inflamed. People also tend to lie on their shoulder while sleeping, which can compress the joint even further, and thereby worsening the inflammation.
What Is Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
Frozen shoulder, formally known as adhesive capsulitis, is an inflammatory process characterized by joint pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in the shoulder.
Adhesive capsulitis normally occurs when the shoulder joint capsule the connective tissue surrounding the joint becomes stiff, thick, and inflamed. The joint capsule contains ligaments that connect the shoulder socket to the upper arm bone and keep the joint firmly in place. Most of the pain associated with adhesive capsulitis is caused by inflammation in the joint capsule.
The condition is called frozen shoulder because patients tend to use their shoulder less and less as the pain increases over time.
Unfortunately, the lack of movement causes the joint capsule to become progressively thicker and tighter, making the shoulder even more painful and difficult to move. Eventually, the shoulder ends up frozen in its place.
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Pay Attention To Your Posture And Sleeping Position
Patients with frozen shoulder are vulnerable to reduced sleep quality. This is especially true during the first stage or the freezing stage, which is the phase when you will feel the most pain. However, getting adequate sleep promotes healing and reduces inflammation.
To help you stay comfortable as you sleep, you can put a pillow under your affected arm, with your hand resting on your stomach. If you tend to sleep on your side, make sure you dont sleep on your affected shoulder. Likewise, place your affected arm on a pillow across your chest as if hugging it.
When you are standing or sitting, make sure you have good posture. Keep your shoulders back and avoid slouching or slumping to help ease your pain.
Common Symptoms Of Frozen Shoulder
The most common symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain and stiffness. As the soft tissues tighten around the shoulder joint, it restricts the mobility and range of motion in the shoulder joint. This can make regular everyday movements more painful, including simple things like brushing your teeth or putting on a shirt. Along with pain symptoms, stiffness occurs as the shoulder capsule tightens and hardens over time. A stiff shoulder can reduce your typical range of motion and keep you from doing things like raising your arms above your head, lifting objects, and rotating your shoulder.
There are three stages of frozen shoulder, and the symptoms vary depending on what stage you are in. The first stage is the freezing stage when the pain starts to set in, and you notice a decrease in your typical range of motion in the affected shoulder. The second stage is the frozen stage, which is when the pain might decrease, but the stiffness in the shoulder is at its strongest, and many shoulder movements become much more difficult. The final stage is the thawing stage, where the pain and stiffness start to go away, and you begin to regain range of motion in the affected shoulder.
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Stick To A Sleep Schedule
Along with fixing your position while sleeping, always make sure to try to stick to a sleeping schedule. Good sleep hygiene can make all the difference in your sleeping patterns. Having a consistent bedtime ritual that helps wind you down at the end of the day can do wonders in terms of reducing stress and tension, and improving sleep length and quality.
Try something relaxing before bed like a shower and make sure you fall asleep in a dark room with no electronics. Medication can also help you sleep, but be cautious of how often you use them. Constantly requiring sleep aids can be a major sign of a problem and the more you use over-the-counter drugs, the more you will need to be effective. In addition, if youre using other medications, they may react poorly with the sleep aids.
Perform Stretches For Shoulder Pain At Night
Exercising a few hours before bed can also be useful as it will increase blood flow throughout the whole body. This can alleviate pain, but also relax you enough to ease sleeping troubles. Try something low impact like a brisk walk or a bike ride, and then allow your body to cool down again before going to bed.
Further, certain shoulder stretches can help you reduce the tension and stress that has built up during the day. Not only are shoulder stretches an easy option, but they take only a few minutes at night. Stretching has huge health benefits like increasing flexibility, range of motion, and blood flow. Another big plus is that they are simple to do in your own home and require no special equipment. Before you go to bed, try these seven shoulder stretches to alleviate some tension and reduce your stress.
Shoulder stretch basics
If you start to feel pain at any time during a stretch, stop immediately. Stretching should be done to the point of mild strain. If you experience pain, you are going too hard and could injure yourself. This is especially true if the pain is sharp or sudden. It is a good idea for chronic pain sufferers to consult a pain doctor before starting too strenuous of a stretching routine as overexertion could exacerbate certain conditions.
Standing wall stretch
Shoulder blade stretch
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Treatment Options For A Frozen Shoulder
The fastest way to heal a frozen shoulder differs among people. What works for other people may not work for you. This is because each person will present with a difference in the severity of the condition and symptoms.
Your doctor will assess your condition and suggest the best treatment for you, which will involve one or more of the following treatments:
- Physical therapy for a frozen shoulder involves exercises that improve the range of motion at the shoulder.
- Exercises for a frozen shoulder can be classified into two types, namely, stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Always do warm-up sessions before you perform the exercises. You may take a warm shower or use a heating pad for the purpose.
- While performing these exercises, perform only till the point when you experience mild pain. Do not go beyond that.
Stretching exercises for a frozen shoulder:
- Pendulum stretch:
- Lean forward a bit so that your affected shoulder hangs down by your side.
- Move the shoulder sideways and forward and backwardlike the pendulum of a clock.
- You can take the arm as far as it can go with only mild pain. As symptoms improve, you can improve the range of your motion gradually and add weights too.
Adhesive Capsulitis Embolization: An Alternative Treatment For Frozen Shoulder
ACE is a minimally invasive alternative treatment for frozen shoulder that has already shown excellent results
Adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder syndrome can cause significant discomfort and pain, limiting the patients range of mobility and decreasing their quality of life.
Unfortunately, the treatment options are still somewhat limited. People with this condition are usually prescribed physical therapy followed by a course of anti-inflammatory medications. These often produce mixed results and far-from-optimal health outcomes.
However, many patients do not know that they can now try a minimally invasive alternative treatment for frozen shoulder called adhesive capsulitis embolization . This procedure has already shown excellent results in successfully relieving capsulitis shoulder pain.
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What Is The Main Cause Of Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder is caused by inflammation, scarring, and thickening of the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint. People are also at risk for frozen shoulder if they had a previous injury or if they have Parkinsons disease, tuberculosis, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, or a weak immune system. An extended period of inactivity due to injury or illness are also likely to experience frozen shoulder symptoms. Age and gender also play a prominent role in this condition. People, most likely women who are 40 years or older, are more likely to develop and experience frozen shoulder.
Use Head And Neck Support
Whether you prefer to sleep on your side or back, you want to use proper pillows and support for your head and neck. You might be surprised to realize just how much a well-supported head and neck can positively impact an aggravated shoulder joint. When your head and neck are properly aligned with your spine, it reduces pressure on your musculoskeletal system and helps your central nervous system to function optimally. When you sleep with your body in proper alignment, it helps to better distribute your weight and pressure on your shoulders.
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Who Gets Frozen Shoulder
The frozen shoulder risk is increased when you don’t receive exercise therapy after tendinitis or an injury, and when you wear a sling for more than a few days without intermittent stretching. About 10% of people with rotator cuff disorders develop frozen shoulder. Enforced immobility resulting from a stroke, heart condition, or surgery may also result in a frozen shoulder. Other conditions that raise the risk of a frozen shoulder are thyroid disorders, Parkinson’s disease
Talk To A Pain Doctor About Interventional Therapies
If these natural treatments dont work to relieve your shoulder pain at night, it may be time to talk to a pain doctor. They can help diagnose the exact cause of your shoulder pain. If your pain isnt due to an acute injury or fracture, they may suggest interventional treatments for chronic pain.
These shoulder pain at night treatments include:
- Physical therapy to increase flexibility and reduce pressure on your joint
- Chiropractic care to increase mobility and loosen tension
- A regimen of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Joint injections that can relieve nerve irritation
- Surgery, but only for the most severe cases of shoulder pain at night
If more conservative treatments like chiropractic care or physical therapy havent worked, a joint injection provides a minimally-invasive treatment that doesnt require surgery. You can learn more about this approach in the following video .
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Sleep With A Body Pillow
A body pillow can also help provide you with support while you sleep. If you are a side sleeper, then a body pillow against your back can help keep you in place so that you stay sleeping on the shoulder that does not have adhesive capsulitis. That way, your frozen shoulder can stay elevated above your heart, and you avoid putting pressure on the joint while you sleep. If you prefer to sleep on your back, then you can use a body pillow along the side of your body with the frozen shoulder to help prevent you from rolling onto that side and help keep your shoulder and arm propped in a comfortable position.
Can Side Sleeping Cause Shoulder Pain
When you rest on your side, your body weight accumulates in a small area, including the hips and shoulders. Experts with the Gobezie Shoulder Institute say the pressure of this weight could lead to soreness, particularly if there is an underlying condition in that part of the body.
Many top-quality mattresses are designed with comfort layers to help provide relief for those body areas sensitive to pressure. However, if your bed is older or is not a good match for your sleep style and body type, this could also lead to painful pressure build-up.
If you are a regular side sleeper and have noticed you wake up with discomfort in your arm, it may be time to invest in a new bed that prioritizes pressure relief with quality-made comfort layers. Furthermore, you can add more plush comfort to your sleep space with other helpful products such as a mattress pad or topper.
Want to know more? See our full guide to the best mattresses for hip & shoulder pain.
While searching for a new bed, you will also want to pay attention to the firmness of the mattress. A bedâs firmness is rated on a scale of 1-10, with one being the softest and ten the hardest.
If you weigh significantly less, beds will tend to feel harder to you than people at an average weight or heavier. Purchasing a mattress that is too firm could impact pressure relief.
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Sleep On Your Opposite Shoulder
If you find it hard to sleep on your back in a reclined position, you may want to try sleeping on your side. Of course, this means sleeping on the shoulder that isnt causing you pain. To avoid turning over onto your other shoulder, you can place a pillow behind your back and/or in front of you. This should keep you from rolling onto the injured shoulder.
Why Does Frozen Shoulder Hurt More At Night
The pain a frozen shoulder-sufferer experiences at night has to do issues related to blood flow.
At night, the body naturally slows down blood flow, as well as other functions like kidney filtration. Because blood moves through the body more slowly and water is not filtered as quickly by the kidneys, it leads to a generalized retention of water. This water retention results in increased internal pressure within the body.
All inflammatory conditionsnot just frozen shoulder are worsened overnight due to these natural processes. This means there is even more painful inflammation in the already highly pressurized shoulder joint., which leads to a significant increase in pain.
If someone with frozen should is not able to visit one of Dr. Allan Oolo-Austins many World Frozen Shoulder Clinics located in offices around the world to get the problem dealt with right away, they will still need to sleep comfortably.
So whats a frozen shoulder sufferer to do to get some decent sleep? They adapt and find frozen shoulder sleep positions that work for them.
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