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Covid and Frozen Shoulder

When I returned to work after the initial lockdown in June 2020, I was seeing an unusual number of patients presenting with frozen shoulder. In fact, I had never seen so many cases in the 10 years I had been working as an Osteopath.

When patients' present with an injury, there is commonly a reason why it has occurred in the first place. They may have lifted something very heavy, overdone it in the garden, or have been overtraining in their sport. In the many cases of patients presenting with frozen shoulder during Covid, it was for unknown reasons.

A retrospective study was conducted from March 2020 to January 2021, comparing cases of idiopathic frozen shoulder to the previous year. During the pandemic, there was a 39.8% relative increase in cases of idiopathic frozen shoulder. To date, we do not know why this is the case but at least there is reasoning to what I observed during this period!

Frozen shoulder commonly occurs as a result of previous injury, trauma, or after surgery. The capsule surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and begins to tighten. Mobility starts to dwindle, and patients are often in constant pain, unable to sleep at night, and can also have profound effects on their mental health. Frozen shoulder can last months, sometimes years, and early intervention is key. From experience, a combination of physical therapy, home-based exercises and corticosteroid injections offers the best outcomes in terms of pain, mobility and longevity of the condition.

Demyttenaere, J. et al. (2021). The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Frozen Shoulder Incidence Rates & Severity. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. 10: 1016.


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