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Frozen Shoulder and Diabetes

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Frozen Shoulder and Diabetes

The Journal of Diabetes Investigation has reported that there is a 27% prevalence rate of shoulder disorders in people with diabetes as compared with the rate of 5% found in general patients.

Most of these shoulder disorders are adhesive capsulitis referred to more commonly as  “Frozen Shoulder”. Indeed frozen shoulder may be an indication that you have undiagnosed high blood sugars.

The mere mention of Frozen Shoulder can make toes curl of those who have had it (including me!).

It can be an incredibly painful and debilitating condition and can make it really challenging to keep tight control of blood sugars. It interferes with exercise and sleep can be badly compromised during the acute pain period which can lead to stress both of which can impact blood sugars negatively. Cooking home-made meals can also be more challenging if you lose the use of one arm so it’s easy to see how healthy eating might slip and the temptation of comfort eating is perfectly understandable.

Generally it is a slow onset and initially may seem like seem like a niggle – it’s not uncommon to appear after doing a strenuous arm exercise that you have not done for a long time like lots of swimming, cutting a large hedge or even after a an injury or fall.

The pain is on movement and can radiate down the arm or into the neck. There is also restricted movement which can get to the point of not being able to lift your arm to shoulder height or behind your back at all.

It can be diagnosed by symptoms but generally speaking an MRI is done to rule out other disorders. Scans generally show up a lot of inflammation and anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed.

However unfortunately for many people they do not give pain relief, indeed it can be difficult to find anything that alleviates the pain. Acupuncture and some other therapies can definitely help and are worth trying. Steroid injections are commonly recommended and if given early after diagnosis can have a very positive effect on the pain. Do be mindful that steroids can negatively affect blood sugars so it is important to keep a mindful watch on them if this applies to you. Also many people do not get relief from the injection which can be disheartening as many people will describe the pain as “excruciating’.

It interferes with the simple things like getting dressed, washing/combing your hair, cycling a bike and important things like giving hug’s, lifting children and shaking someone’s hand!  It can be incredibly difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep, it bring can bring a real sense of restlessness and even increased pain when lying down. Explore ways that other pillows or cushions may help. Some people feel better sleeping in a recliner chair but not everyone has the luxury of that option!

Commonly its in 3 distinct phases and start to finish can vary between months and years.

Phase 1: The Freezing stage which is anything between 6 weeks an 9 months – can be extremely painful and a lot of motion lost.

Phase 2: Frozen! Pain subsides but still very limited movement, this can last for 3 months to a year in extreme cases.

Phase 3: Thaw Phase: Movement resumes, pain gone and ability to do all tasks resumes. This can take months and some people will claim up to 2 years to get a complete range of motion back.

The older you are or the longer you have had diabetes, the higher your risk. People who are between the ages of 40 and 60 are more likely to experience frozen shoulder, and women are more at risk.

If you do not respond to anti-inflammatories or painkillers it is about doing all you can to cope with the pain. Mindfulness, breath work and meditation are an excellent therapies to start with. Personally I had a frozen shoulder with severe pain and regular meditations helped the pain enormously. I also got good mobility back within 3 months.

In clinical settings many pain specialists are now offering this style of intervention and there is strong evidence that meditation can help significantly with pain and healing.

In addition to this there is no choice but to prioritise what needs to be done in your life and what you can stop. Focus on the essentials and getting better. See a physiotherapist, amatsu therapist or physical therapist to learn about exercises to help that your arm and get more mobility. Continue to eat healthily and simplify your meals avoiding inflammatory foods like sugar, flour and hydrogenated oils. Do your best to maintain a positive attitude and use it as a time to improve the mindset of patience; this can take a long time to heal, be kind to yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

And again, find a meditation that feels good for you, visualise your shoulder healing and getting better and trust your body to do the rest.

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