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Frozen Shoulder vs. Shoulder Impingement: Which Is Causing Your Pain?

Shoulder pain can significantly disrupt your daily life, especially when simple tasks like reaching overhead become a challenge. Two common culprits for such discomfort are frozen shoulder and shoulder impingement. Although these conditions affect the same region, they have distinct characteristics and symptoms.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder and Shoulder Impingement

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms:

  • Gradual onset of pain and stiffness in the shoulder.
  • Limited motion, struggles with activities like dressing or reaching.
  • Worsening stiffness leads to a severely limited range of motion.
  • Night-time pain disrupts sleep.

Shoulder Impingement Symptoms:

  • Sharp pain when reaching, particularly overhead or behind.
  • Could experience difficulties with daily tasks such as fastening a bra or reaching back.
  • Pain is often felt at the top or front of the shoulder.
  • If untreated, occasional discomfort can turn into chronic pain.

Uncertainty about your condition can be frustrating. Everyday tasks like reaching high shelves or personal care shouldn’t cause pain. Here’s a closer look at the differences between these conditions and the important role of physical therapy in your recovery.

Frozen Shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis, known as frozen shoulder, is marked by a progressive loss of motion accompanied by pain. Over time, the shoulder becomes ‘frozen,’ making it difficult to perform overhead activities or even simple tasks like wearing clothes.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • A dull or aching pain.
  • Significant limitations in reaching out or up, with the motion decreasing over time.
  • A tough phase where pain might decrease but stiffness remains, making movement difficult.

Shoulder Impingement

This condition involves the compression of the rotator cuff tendons between the shoulder bones. It’s often the result of repetitive overhead activity and can cause acute symptoms.

Key symptoms include:

  • Pain while lifting the arm to the side or in front.
  • Trouble reaching behind the back, perhaps when tucking in a shirt or fastening a bra.
  • A sudden pain when reaching for objects.

Physical Therapy’s Role in Recovery

Whether dealing with a frozen shoulder or shoulder impingement, physical therapy can bring relief. A personalized treatment plan with a PT can ease pain and restore full function by:

  • Reducing Pain: Through Exercise and Pain Management.
  • Improving Mobility: With tailored stretching techniques.
  • Strengthening Muscles: Targeting muscle groups for support.
  • Restoring Function: Regaining daily activity ability.
  • Educating: Managing symptoms and preventing future issues.

With a custom therapy program, PTs help you regain mobility and comfort in shoulder tasks. Time to consider physical therapy for improved well-being.

Shamaine Physiophyx PT

Dr. Sharmaine Longsworth

DPT, CIDN, Owner and Founder of Physiophyx PT

"We Help People Get Rid of Pain & Injuries and Return to an Active Lifestyle Without Pain Meds, Injections, or Surgery."
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