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What are the Treatments for Frozen Shoulder?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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There are a number of different treatments for frozen shoulder including painkilling medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, and cortisone injections. A physiotherapist will often prescribe a set of exercises to stop the joint from becoming stiff. Alternative treatments such as massage and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy may also be used to reduce pain and increase the shoulder’s range of motion. If less invasive treatment fails, surgery might be required.

To start with, painkillers can often be prescribed to treat frozen shoulder. Paracetamol is an over-the-counter drug that can be effective at reducing mild pain; stronger painkillers may be required if the discomfort is severe. Along with standard painkilling medication, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can be taken to reduce inflammation and control pain. Stronger anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen, can be more effective at reducing pain, but are also associated with a larger number of negative side effects.

If standard anti-inflammatory medicine is not having the desired effect, a steroid injection may be required. Steroids injected directly into the shoulder joint can have a significant effect on inflammation and reduce pain considerably. A steroid injection can also assist in increasing the joint’s range of motion. Injections are not a permanent solution, however, and the symptoms will return over time.

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Physical therapy is one of the most important treatments for frozen shoulder. A physiotherapist typically recommends shoulder exercises to help prevent the joint from becoming stiffer over time. The exercises will usually only be effective if they are performed on a regular basis. Along with shoulder exercises, a physiotherapist may apply ice or heat packs and other treatments to help reduce pain.

There are a number of other conservative treatments for frozen shoulder which can help to reduce pain and stiffness. Massage, for example, is useful for reducing tension in surrounding muscles. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is also commonly employed by physiotherapists due to its ability to numb the nerve endings.

If other treatments for frozen shoulder have not had the desired effect, surgery could be required. There are two types of surgery that are used for this condition. Arthroscopic surgery, which is also known as keyhole surgery, can be performed to open up the shoulder capsule. Manipulation surgery is also sometimes used; this involves forcefully manipulating the shoulder joint while the patient is under general anesthetic. Both types of surgery require periods of rehabilitation and physical therapy afterward.

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