Q. I am 45 years old and have had worsening left shoulder pain for two months. In the beginning it just started hurting, but over the last couple weeks it hurts more and I am losing range of motion. I do not recall injuring myself. I have tried anti inflammatories and they do not help. What should I do now?
A. A very common condition, particularly in women between the ages of 35-55, is a “frozen shoulder.” This condition can develop even in the absence of an injury or overuse. It often begins with an inflammation of the rotator cuff tendon, resulting in pain with rotation of the shoulder and pain at the extremes of motion. In some people when they stop moving the shoulder fully, scar tissue, or adhesions, develops further, limiting the motion.
This can become a vicious cycle as the more limited in motion the shoulder becomes, the more scar tissue develops and the worse the motion becomes. Xrays are usually normal and even MRI scans may not show much damage. Anti inflammatories such as Advil may not help much and even cortisone injections to the shoulder usually do not help. Until your range of motion is close to normal the pain does not go away.
I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon to confirm the diagnosis and arrange a treatment program. Physical therapy is the mainstay of treatment for most patients to regain motion, decrease pain and restore normal function.
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Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to HarlanS@baptisthealth.net.