Tips for living with a frozen shoulder

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I am in my early 50s, menopausal with frozen shoulder, vaginal atrophy and regular migraines and yes, when I have the migraine all the other complaints hurt more too (even the tip of my nose hurts!). I’ve been like this for nearly a year now and it’s a long time since I had a complete night’s sleep. But, the shoulder is getting better and I have got better at living with it. Here are some tips which made my life easier.

1. I find an ice-pack really helps, applied morning and evening. More often is better but not always possible. If you are doing this in Winter make sure you are sitting near a source of heat when you do it or 10 minutes with an ice pack on the shoulder will leave you chilled all over.

2. Do stretching exercises as often as you can – when you get up is good and then at intervals during the day. If you incorporate shoulder exercises into a wider exercise programme it feels less like “I’m an invalid” and more like “I’m keeping fit” which is good for morale. But don’t do too much, 5-10 minutes at a time is plenty.

3. Don’t carry a briefcase or rucksack – a soft satchel carried across the other shoulder is a practical and comfortable alternative. But carry as little as possible: (Eg one eyeshadow and mascara not an entire make-up bag. Buy a newspaper at the station and leave it on the train, don’t carry a book.)

4. Buying a week’s groceries and loading them into the car will aggravate the shoulder. Either accept the supermarket’s offer of packing and taking the goods to the car or shop more frequently or accept that the shoulder will hurt more that night and the following morning.

5. If your work requires you to do repetitive tasks (including typing or sitting at a computer screen) buy a cook’s timer, set it to go off after a maximum of an hour and move about or do something different when it goes off.

6. Get (or pay) someone else to do the housework. If you must do the occasional bit of housework buy a lightweight vacuum cleaner (Gtech do a good 1.5 kilo rechargeable one) and don’t do more than one room at a time. Don’t forget to set your timer.

7. Gardening is fine for me – but don’t overdo it.

8. If you are driving long distances, you may find it helps to take a break and do some stretching exercises en route. The same is true of long train and plane journeys, a walk up and down the train or plane will ease the shoulder

9. Watching television is more comfortable if you sit in a chair which supports your arm then if you sit on the sofa and let the arm droop.

10. A small cushion between your knees when you go to bed will stop you rolling over onto the affected shoulder and help ensure a good night’s sleep.

11. If you know you are going to wake up in pain in the night and not be able to get back to sleep it helps if you have a good book by the side of the bed and the bedside radio tuned to a favourite station. It’s easier to get back to sleep if you have something to take your mind off the pain.

12. If you normally sleep with somebody else starting off with them and moving to the spare bed if you need to is a sociable way of meeting your needs and theirs. A nightlight in the spare bedroom and the curtains ready drawn, book and radio at the ready makes this a welcoming rather than a miserable experience.

13. Sex – the other person will have to do more of the work – but you can still have a lot of fun.

14. You may find that you need more sleep than usual. The occasional early night or lunchtime nap can be really refreshing.

15. Try to get as much general exercise as possible. Walking is good basic exercise. This helps keep the rest of your body trim and fit.

16. If you can’t take part in your usual activities because of your shoulder then consider joining an evening class or taking up a new interest or hobby. Having something new to look forward to will help keep your spirits up and may provide longterm benefit.

For women

16. Buy a couple of front fastening bras. You may not always want to wear one, but just having one available when you need it is very comforting.

17. Don’t carry a shoulderbag on the affected shoulder. A handbag gives you earlier warning of when you are overdoing it. If at all possible go shopping taking just a credit or debit card and a handful of loose change in a pocket. And don’t buy or carry very much at a time.

Finally

Your shoulder will get better over time and if you are gentle with it the healing process will be quicker and less painful. There is life both after and with frozen shoulder.

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11 Replies

  • Posted

    Good, sensible, sound advice. I second everything. I've had it 3 times and the self care approach is best.
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  • Posted

    I agree the gentle approach is the best. I had aggressive physio and it just made it more painful, once I stopped it became much more settled.

    I recommend swimming, 3+ times a week, the range of movement increased dramatically, and you don't realise how stiff the muscles around the shoulder and shoulder blade become, swimming really relaxes them and that eases some of the pain.

    I found heat packs helped more than ice, but it is an individual thing. Whatever helps you.

    The one thing that you hang onto is that this condition will eventually go, and once you are through the initial freezing stage the pain subsides. I am seven months into the first shoulder, and five months into the second. The cortisone was a big help and now my first shoulder is thawing and the second, a few weeks after stopping physio only hurts on extreme stretches, withing a few swimming sessions I was able to get it behind my back, I did that movement under water and it was easier.

    I have resisted pressure from the consultant and pysio to take the surgical route, it is only twinges of pain on extreme stretches and the movement is improving so I have no intention of stirring up the inflamation again.

    Good luck to all of us, this is a horrible condition, I don't think people realise how debilitating it can be.

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  • Posted

    Hi,

    I had frozen left shoulder last year, now frozen right shoulder. Just had steroid injection in right shoulder today...I await comfort with eager anticipation. The nights are painful and tedious...and trying to look enthusiastic at work, when completely shattered is an art form in itself. Heat pads work for me, and the knowledge that for my previous FS, an MUA worked! (I'd had the pain/stiffness for 9 months then, and was completely brassed off.

    The difficulty is that there is no sling/plaster or obvious sign of injury to the outside world. Therefore it's a case of suffering in silence (except when catching shoulder beyond it's limited range....then there's lots of 'ouch, @@** expletives). Yesterday I caught it, whilst trying to fasten seat belt; open cutlery drawer, stroke the cat, lock the door, climbing into bath, and switching off the light. My husband could be heard giggling as i swore for the umpteenth time...hmm!

    Wishing fellow sufferes well...

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  • Posted

    A wonderfully long list of tips. Thank you. An up-beat message to all sufferers.
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  • Posted

    I must admit, that I found swearing more effective than pain killers!

    I didn't know I could swear as much, and used words I had never used before. I am well on the way to full recovery now and there is only slight discomfort on some movements.

    I honestly think you are better off just letting it heal naturally, forcing the issue with brutal physio therapy, or worse MUA which is barbaric (although works for some).

    Anti inflamitory pills don't work, but the injections do. Grit your teeth for 10 seconds, put up with aching and pain afterwards for a few hours and they reduce the inflamation.

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  • Posted

    Hi

    many thanks for this. I seen specialist yesterday after almost 5 months of agony and told by 2 doctors i have a fracture. Had my 3 rd injection yesterday, previous 2 didnt work and specialist seems it highly unlikely this one will but hey ho worth a go. He said its the most hes ever witnessed a shoulder to be frozen, yep, its pretty much stuck. I am starting rehab with gentle physio then back to see him in 3 weeks to decide what to do whether to stick it out with physio or try surgical intervention. Atbthe moment, i just want my arm back. I already have severe arthritis in my whole spine, bith wrists and both knees so although i can walk, i am bery limited and feel this is another i trusion of my independence. I know this will get better but right now its hard to imagine. Mybright shoulder has bursitis also so i asked the dreaded question if that too will develop into frozen should and i wad told probably. .,ARGH i hate this condition

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  • Posted

    You should leve some copies in your Docs or PTs waiting room, better advice than he or she might give.
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  • Posted

    You made me laugh about my fs which I rarely do. I am getting much better but feel like I will never be able to reach back to do a bra again. i can finally do some zippers in the back of a dress but skirt zippers are challenging. Buying a sports bra that zips in the front made it possible for me to keep going to the gym.
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  • Posted

    Hi Kay

    Thanks for all the tips. After suffering for months I eventually was told I had frozen shoulder and was given a cortisone injection which gave me great relief! But a few weeks later ended up on crutches- torn ligaments in both ankles and also left knee! Off crutches now but feel they aggravated the shoulder so may need another injection. I sometimes feel most people don't realise how painful and debilitating it is!!

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