Fixing Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

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It's a very painful condition that most of us have never heard of. Frozen shoulder syndrome often comes on with little warning, and can limit a person's everyday activities. (KFSN)

It's a very painful condition that most of us have never heard of. Frozen shoulder syndrome often comes on with little warning, and can limit a person's everyday activities. The condition may mimic arthritis, but early diagnosis and treatment can help patients get on the road to recovery.

Suzanne Vaaler is always in the driver's seat.

"I would say I probably spend about three hours in the car a day," Vaaler told Ivanhoe.

Three kids with lots of places to go. But for months, even this was a big challenge.

"If I'm driving, there are times I cannot have full range of motion in my arm."

Two years ago, Vaaler's shoulder started to feel stiff. She thought it was a normal part of aging, until she was suddenly unable to move.

Vaaler explained, "I wasn't able to do anything. I've had three children, and this was more painful than that."

John-Paul Rue, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland diagnosed Vaaler with adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder syndrome.

"It's not clear why the condition starts but at some point, calcium deposits form in the rotator cuff," detailed Dr. Rue. (Read Full Interview)

This causes inflammation and stiffness. Dr. Rue said it's more common in patients starting in their forties, and patients with diabetes or thyroid trouble are at higher risk. While the condition often goes away on its own, in some cases, surgery can help. Surgeons make two incisions around the shoulder, and insert a fiber optic camera and small instruments to remove scar tissue.

"Then we do a gentle manipulation of the shoulder to stretch the capsule, which is the primary restraint to the motion of the shoulder," explained Dr. Rue.

Vaaler said, "I would tell people to do what I did not do which is to have it checked out sooner rather than later."

Dr. Rue said frozen shoulder syndrome affects about two percent of the U.S. population. Experts are unsure why, but the condition is more prevalent in women than in men.
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