Jun 21, 2009 11:43AM 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.