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What to Know About Frozen Shoulder

Last updated: September 27, 2022

It’s a very frustrating diagnosis for people, because it’s a journey and a process to get the motion back. It takes time.

Dr. Eric Erickson, Orthopedic Sports Surgeon, ThedaCare Orthopedic Care

When it comes to shoulder pain, people might expect discomfort to arise from an injury or a chronic issue with the joint. What they might not expect is traumatic shoulder pain that happens without any apparent reason. 

“In 2022, we still can’t tell you why frozen shoulder occurs,” says ThedaCare Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Eric Erickson.  

Understanding Frozen Shoulder

When frozen shoulder develops, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed and contracted, causing pain and loss of motion and pliability. The problem often gets worse over time. It can cause discomfort that makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. 

Eventually — usually within 18 months to two years — a frozen shoulder can “thaw out.” Motion then improves while pain diminishes, Dr. Erickson says. 

While the cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, it most commonly impacts middle-aged people. It also usually affects the non-dominant arm. People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing the condition. Some people may develop the condition in both shoulders at once, Dr. Erickson says. 

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Even though frozen shoulder can get better without care, the loss of range of motion can get in the way of daily activities. Two years is also a long time to be in pain. The good news is that treatment options are available. Often, physical therapy and an ultrasound-guided injection of cortisone are enough to provide relief

“It doesn’t resolve overnight. It takes time, but then people get through the process,” Dr. Erickson says. “They’re not waiting 18 months or two years to get through it.” 

In his practice at ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain, Dr. Erickson sees patients every week who are suffering from frozen shoulder. Once a patient receives that diagnosis, Dr. Erickson can collaborate with other providers within the same building and refer his patients for needed care.  

“It’s common for me to arrange for them right at that moment to have them see one of our primary care sports medicine doctors,” he says. “They can then do an ultrasound-guided cortisone injection.”

Surgical Care

For the small percentage of patients whose pain and lack of motion persists after non-surgical treatments, surgery can become an option. The arthroscopic surgery releases that tight tissue and re-expands the joint. After surgery, people work with physical therapists to maintain that restored motion. 

“It’s a very frustrating diagnosis for people, because it’s a journey and a process to get the motion back,” Dr. Erickson says. “It takes time. But if you remain dedicated to the program at ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain, the overwhelming majority of people get through it without having to have a surgery.” 

ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain offers expert care and the latest tools and technologies to help patients get back to doing the activities they love.

Experiencing Frozen Shoulder?

Schedule an appointment or visit Orthopedic Walk-in Care at ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain.

Tags: Dr. Eric Erickson frozen shoulder orthopedics painful shoulder sports medicine

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