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Topic: Frozen shoulder?

Forum: Help Me Get Through Treatment — Medications and other treatments, medical benefits, and managing side effects.

Posted on: Jun 20, 2009 10:11AM

AnnR wrote:

Hi All,

I haven't posted much in the past, but have always found this site to be tremendously helpful.  I had stage 3A cancer, a masectomy, chemo and radiation and generally got through it without too much of a problem.  I finished radiation around Feb.  Started noticing some stiffness in my shoulder towards the end of radiation - just when I put my arm up and back (i.e. the position you need for radiation).  Since then, its gotten a bit worse and I saw a physical therapist who says its probably not connected to surgery / radiation, to do some light stretches and it should clear on its own.  Saw my oncologist and he pointed out that he sees a lot of frozen shoulders in people he treats for breast cancer, but not other types of cancer. I'm working on scheduling an appointment with a shoulder doctor but am curious if others have had this issue and if so, what you did for treatment.

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Jun 21, 2009 01:43PM bluedasher wrote:

I had frozen shoulder - not in any way connected to my breast cancer. It was about 5 years before my breast cancer diagnosis. Frozen shoulder is most common in women and most common around 50. That's a pretty typical age to get breast cancer diagnosis so perhaps it is just coincidence that your oncologist sees it a lot with breast cancer.

They don't seem to know a lot about frozen shoulder and what causes it but there is some thought that keeping the shoulder immobile may contribute to it. So perhaps not moving the shoulder much while recovering from BC surgery contributes. I was told to start doing range of motion exercises soon after surgery to help prevent frozen shoulder.

It can seem like tendinitis at first. An orthopedic doctor should be able to tell the difference. All joints are surrounded by a "capsule" that keeps in the fluid that lubricates the joint. Because the shoulder has a much larger range of motion than other joints, the capsule for the shoulder has a lot of pleats. The pleats unfold to let the bag expand when needed like when you put your arm over your head.

For some unknown reason, sometimes the pleats adhere to each other and don't let the bag expand. That's fronzen shoulder. At first the motion is just a little restricted and time goes on it gets worse until sometimes you can barely move your arm away from your side. Not only can't you move it, but when the doctor tries to lift it, it won't and it hurts a lot. That's why they call it "frozen" - its like its glued in place. I was told that it typically takes a year - about half that to get frozen and about half to unfreeze. Most sources and my doctor say you can't do anything to hurry the first part. Once it starts to unfreeze, you can do stretching exercises to get it to unfreeze sooner so there isn't much treatment. Just physical therapy to teach you the stretches when it starts to unfreeze. Once it recovers, there may be some loss of range of motion but it usually comes back close to normal.  

There is some disagreement about whether the beginning just seems like tendinitis or whether it sometimes starts with tendinitis and the lack of motion of the shoulder due to the pain from that causes frozen shoulder. At the beginning of frozen shoulder, it often hurts but once the shoulder is getting more frozen, it stops hurting unless you try to move it beyond the range allowed by the frozen capsule.

It was pretty inconvenient, but once it was over my shoulder got back to normal. 

The whole world is a narrow bridge and the main thing is to not fear.

Dx 9/2008, IDC, <1cm, Stage Ib, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Jun 21, 2009 08:18PM digger wrote:

I had a unilateral mx in Nov 08 with tissue expander placement and then my exchange in March 09.  My shoulder and range of motion were fine after the mx, but about six weeks after the exchange, I developed frozen shoulder in that arm.  My feeling is that either the shoulder was immobilized in some strange way during the surgery, or, more likely, I unknowingly had been positioning that arm in kind of a defensive position to protect my chest (hard to explain, but kind of keeing the arm bent and in front of my body).  Now that I'm aware of this position, I take care to try to keep that arm out and away from my body and continually stretch it during the day.

I did start PT about six weeks ago (2 sessions a week), and that has been very helpful.  The PT massages the shoulder and then helps me with various exercises.  This week will probably be my last, as I know the exercises now and it's just a matter of time now until the shoulder gets better.  The PT did say it would take about a year to a year and a half, which is a bummer, but I guess it is what it is.   

Do make sure to get some help if you think you've got frozen shoulder, because my understanding is that it can become permanent if you don't get the right treatment/exercise regimen.

Take care. 

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Jun 21, 2009 08:31PM, edited Jun 21, 2009 08:32PM by faithandfifty

I have experienced frozen shoulder, up close and personal and it's certainly no fun.

Mine developed shortly after my DCIS surgery, tho as indicated above, supposedly they were not connected. ???????

After a shoulder MRI and a shot that offered no relief, I was turned over for PT. It was at times excruciatingly painful, but ultimately I did regain use of that arm/shoulder. Oddly enough this summer the other shoulder is showing some of those same early indicators. Since I know the drill, I have kept it in motion.

Very little is known.

I fit that '50' year-old stereo-type to the tee. Hmmmmmmm.

Keep up with my travels at: www.rainbowswithinreach.blogspot.com

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Jun 21, 2009 08:46PM TenderIsOurMight wrote:

Thanks for that great explanation bluedasher. That's one I can remember and visualize. I'm real stiff in the shoulders and have pain when rotating my shoulders in on both sides. No ones ever suggested PT so I do what I can at home. 

Just wanted to wish you all well: we carry so much, work so hard, type etc, what would we do without shoulder function? My comprehension expands to those with this type of disability.

Tender

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that treatment of each patient is a highly individualized matter. (FDA-approved labeling for warfarin (Coumadin) NDA 9-218/5-105)

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Jun 21, 2009 08:51PM O3132W wrote:

I had a frozen shoulder which lasted a few weeks and after seeing an orthopedic Dr. he gave me a cordizone shot in the shoulder which helped a lot and got back to normal within a week.  This shot did hurt a little but not much.  Hope this helps.

Dx 5/29/2009, IDC, <1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+
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Jun 21, 2009 09:04PM bluedasher wrote:

Digger, as I mentioned above, I was told that frozen shoulder will resolve on its own regardless of whether it gets treatment and that treatment would do no good until the shoulder starts to unfreeze. Then stretching exercises will help it unfreeze more quickly.

Faith, I agree that little is known about the causes and best treatment of frozen shoulder. Because my doctor didn't believe that PT does any good until it starts to unfreeze, my PT didn't start until the shoulder started to unfreeze and the PT was not painful.

I have read that those who develop frozen shoulder in one arm are more likely to develop it in the other arm later. I thought it was starting in my other arm shortly before the breast cancer was diagnosed so I went to see my doctor. It turned out to be bursitis, not frozen shoulder but it felt very like the onset of frozen shoulder. My doctor was able to differentiate it by where the tenderness was and by what type of motion produced pain and other such things.

The whole world is a narrow bridge and the main thing is to not fear.

Dx 9/2008, IDC, <1cm, Stage Ib, Grade 2, 0/5 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+
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Jun 21, 2009 09:17PM faithandfifty wrote:

Yes..... that was the opinion of my orthopedic doc and the PTs too -- that in many people, it will unfreeze of it's own nature over time. They did indicate that there was some possibility that in rare situations there is more possibility of staying frozen/more permanent sort of damage -- if it stayed frozen for 'too long'.

In any case, due to my profession (music & movement with children) I needed to do everything that I possibly could to get my range of motion back, and ASAP. Hence the subjecting myself to the 'torture' of PT.

In my case, the PT was successful.

Yeah, I knew that about the increased possibility of developing in the other shoulder, having had it in one. I often wonder if there's a connection with the tamoxofin? I speak to my onc about those questions -- and he says shoulder stiffness would be completely atypical in his experience.

Things that make ya go, hmmmmmmmm?

Keep up with my travels at: www.rainbowswithinreach.blogspot.com

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Jun 21, 2009 09:32PM SoCalLisa wrote:

Hi there..I got a frozen should also...I went to one physical therapist who did nothing for me then found another who fixed it..took a little time but it worked..

DX 2000-IDC-DCIS-LCIS- 2B..POS NODE--ER+. PR+, HER2 NEG

Dx 11/24/2000, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIb, Grade 1, 1/8 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jun 22, 2009 07:37AM AnnR wrote:

Many thanks  - very helpful to hear other's experiences - also great to know that it ultimately cleared up for most!  I'm planning to follow up w/ the orthopedist to confirm that the PT's assessment of what was going on is correct and if so, sounds like I have to allow some time to pass and do some stretching.

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Nov 5, 2011 04:20AM peacehealer wrote:

Hello Sisters!

I have not logged in for a long time. I just want to let you know that my approach- no surgery, no chemo or radiation, is working. I had a frozen shoulder a few years before my diagnosis, and it went away after acupuncture, but it was a painful and debilitating experience! That was in 2004-6. Here we are in 2011-nearly the end of the year and into 2012, and I am sensing the development of a frozen shoulder again, this time on my right side. That is the side with the more noticable (but now dormant/benign) tumorish lump. So here is my theory: the capsulari 'stick' together, because of a slightly acidic pH in the body, which is also the better environment for cancerous cells to form. As you shift your diet to less sugar/carbohydrate, more minerals and omega3 fatty acids the pH shifts slightly to alkaline and shifts from 'sticky' to 'slippery'. The symptoms dissipate on their own.

 I am seeing this as a sign to redouble my efforts to keep hydrated with mineral water and flaxseed/quark diet.....good books to read are:'the pH miracle' and 'the body ecology diet'.

Be well and happy and see you again!

Peacehealer 

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Nov 5, 2011 07:57AM virokie wrote:

Thanks for dropping by with this info. and bringing this topic back up to the top, I have been experiencing a bit of this and it helps to be aware.  I had already started to PT for other reasons and it has helped with this also so I guess I might have gotten through this and never even known what happened.  Still I like to be more aware of what is happening with my body these days- should have done that sooner but now is good.

Thanks Again,

Vickie

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Nov 5, 2011 01:54PM cycle-path wrote:

Frozen shoulder is terrible. It can occur spontaneously or as the result of some sort of trauma or injury. It may get better / go away on its own and it may not. 

I injured my shoulder slightly and was apparently on the way to frozen shoulder. A friend who is a physical therapist suggest something for me that worked.

If you have a place in your house or garage with a high ceiling, see if you can get someone to securely install a small pulley and put a rope or cord through it. Tie a loop on one end that you can easily fit your hand through. 

Several times a day, put the hand of the "bad" shoulder in the loop and, using the rope, pull it up with the other hand. Don't use the bad shoulder muscle to move it -- do all the moving with the other arm and the rope. Move it up and around as much as you can to the point where the pain begins. Do this several times a day, attempting to increase the range of motion very gradually.

I was able to keep my shoulder from freezing with this exercise, and I believe it's also used to unfreeze one that's already frozen. 

I am an Uppity Woman. Don't like my posts? Put me on IGNORE.

Dx 12/10/2010, DCIS, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+