Adhesive Capsulitis aka “Frozen Shoulder”

So, after being home a few days and with continuing pain in my left shoulder and biceps, I took a visit to my GP. He was effusive in his praise, (which was weird, given how the man has looked after me for the past nine months especially).

Having talked here before about impingement and rotator cuff problems for swimmers, he diagnosed Frozen Shoulder. It sounded makey-uppey to me, I’d never heard of it, but apparently it’s fairly common, the clinical term is Adhesive Capsulitis, affecting 1 in 50 adults during their life, with (usually) no known triggering factor.

Apparently the sac around the head of the arm gets inflammed and “sticks” in the joint. The pain is associated with tearing the capsule away from the joint.

It usually affects the non-dominant shoulder, as with me. It normally lasts for… up to three years, usually with slow onset, prolonged (nine months) period of pain and prolonged recovery.

Anyway, though I can’t find any mention of acute onset in Cochrane or in relation to swimmers or marathon swims, it sounds like what both Lisa and Paul (Hoffy) also got after their Channel swims. And I think they were both non-dominant shoulder also.

My arm and shoulder were immobile for about three days, with some recovery after a massage in Dover. Pain at night was significant but lessening a little now, though I still need anti-inflammatories to sleep.

A visit with Vinny Power last night, my usual sports masseur, was good news however.

My range of motion is restricted, (I can’t swim :-( ), what’s especially noticeable is I have almost no internal rotation on my shoulder. (Ability to put my arm up behind my back). However I can now lift my arm out to 90 degrees from my side and even now partly raise it over my shoulder.

Remediation is passive and active stretching, heating and ice and regular visits to Vinny. I really hope I’m back before the Sandycove Challenge. Helvick looks unlikely, I’ll have to settle for being guest-of-honour (i.e. getting a free burger!) if they remember me.

For stretching I simply only have to raise my arm out to the side to 90 degrees, then face my palm forward and continue raising as hig as I can.

I notice most things that I now do, I’m compensating with my upper back and scapular. I’m also doing gentle single arm press up against a wall. Vinny warned me against my tendency to stretch too often or to stretch into pain, which I usually think will heal me quicker). Sometimes everyone else knows me better than I do.

Still, Vinny’s words were; “your degree of recovery in such a short period of time is extraordinary. It’s completely down to your awesome conditioning”,

i.e. Eilís training programme saves the day yet again.

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2 thoughts on “Adhesive Capsulitis aka “Frozen Shoulder””

    1. Hey,

      I’m not a good example. From onset to complete recovery for me was about 5 weeks. Normal FS usually is about 12 months onset, then 12 months of actual, and about 9 months recovery,as I understand it.

      However a few English Channel swimmers I know have suffered it, due to the strain the Channel puts on. It’s always the good shoulder with us also it seems. This contradicts the literature which doesn’t mention acute onset or or external factors causing the onset.

      For me it was passive stretching and massages, but that was done on top of muscles that had over a year of elite level training, so they were in excellent shape. Twice weekly visits to my sports massage guy for 3 weeks and gentle stretching myself (just to the point of tension and release, no further).

      Hope this helps somewhat.

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