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Published: Thursday March 19, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday March 23, 2015 MYT 9:57:49 AM

Frozen shoulder and golfer’s elbow: How they can disrupt your life

Understanding stiffness and pain involving the shoulder or elbow.

I have been experiencing difficulty moving my right shoulder and arm. According to an orthopaedic surgeon, I have ‘frozen shoulder’. What’s a frozen shoulder?

The word “frozen” here implies pain and stiffness involving the shoulder joint. Frozen shoulder is also medically known as adhesive capsulitis.

By its very name, it means an inflammation of the shoulder capsule.

The shoulder joint is made out of bones, ligaments and tendons.

All this is wrapped up nicely in a capsule of connective tissue.

When this capsule gets inflamed and thickens (capsulitis), this restricts the shoulder joint.

It usually gets worse over time, and then it resolves within one to three years.

It is not usual for a frozen shoulder to recur in the same shoulder, but some people can develop it in the opposite shoulder.

I’m a bit scared. Is this condition very painful? Will I be able to use my shoulder at all?

A frozen shoulder usually develops in three stages.

Each stage can last for several months.

Freezing stage: This is probably the most painful stage. Any attempt to move your shoulder causes pain. Your shoulder’s movement range becomes more and more limited.

Frozen stage: Pain starts to ease at this stage, and most are overjoyed, thinking they are getting better. However, your shoulder becomes even more stiff, and your range of movement becomes worse.

Thawing stage: Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your shoulder’s motion range starts to improve. You can hold your hand further up behind your back than you used to be able to. Some people still experience pain that worsens during the night. This can be quite disturbing to sleep.

Why do some people get a frozen shoulder and others don’t?

There are some risk factors for getting a frozen shoulder:

• If you have diabetes

• If you have immobilised your shoulder for a long time, such as if you had an arm fracture or surgery to your shoulder area. This also occurs to those who have had a stroke.

• People over 40, especially women, are more at risk

• Hyperthyrodism and hypothyroidism

• Cardiovascular disease

• Parkinson’s disease

• Tuberculosis

What can I do if I get a frozen shoulder?

For the pain, you can take a variety of painkillers.

You should also go for physiotherapy, where you can be helped to mobilize your shoulder again.

You are also required to do a range of movements on your own every day outside the physiotherapy clinic.

For those who do not get better after 12 to 18 months, the surgeon may inject steroids or sterile water into your shoulder joint.

Worse come to worse, you have to undergo shoulder manipulation, where the surgeon will put you under anaesthesia and manipulate your shoulder to loosen the tight connective tissue.

I play golf, by the way. I have heard of this condition called golfer’s elbow. What is it?

Golfer’s elbow is a disorder which causes pain on the inner side of your elbow. This is specifically the place where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony protruding bit on the inside of your elbow.

Golfer’s elbow is very similar to tennis elbow.

And it’s not only limited to golfers.

If you play tennis or any sports that uses a racket, and repeatedly use your wrists or clench your fingers, you can also develop this.

You are more at risk if you:

• Use a racket that is too small or too heavy for you.

• Don’t throw a ball/short putt/javelin properly.

• Go to the gym and don’t lift weights properly, such as if you curl your wrists during a biceps exercise.

• Carry out activities involving long hours of repeatedly bending and straightening your elbow.

So there will be pain?

Yes. You will feel pain on the inner side of your elbow.

Sometimes, this pain may extend to the inner side of your forearm.

There will be stiffness, too. You may also experience weakness in your hands and wrists, as well as numbness and tingling, which can extend to your ring and little finger.

Have you ever bumped your elbow against a door and experienced numbness and tingling radiating down your forearm and hand after that? That is the area covered by the ulnar nerve. In golfer’s elbow, that same area is affected.

The pain may come suddenly or gradually. It may worsen if you make a fist, swing your golf club or racket, open a door, shake hands, lift weights and flex your wrist.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Tags / Keywords: Tell Me About, frozen shoulder, golfer s elbow, Dr Y L M, sports injury, pain, stiffness, pain management

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