About a year ago, my shoulder started to freeze. It started off as stiffness, but over time, that stiffness turned into a complete inability to raise my arm without intense pain. After I received a diagnosis of “frozen shoulder”, I went through physical therapy to try to “thaw” my shoulder. When that didn’t work, I decided to get surgery.
Frozen shoulder is a very weird condition. In my case, I happen to be Type 2 diabetic, and it happens to be a condition that occurs more frequently among people with diabetes. Without going too much into detail, there is a capsule around your shoulder joint. For whatever reason, that capsule “freezes” causing pain and immobility. It can take up to three years to “thaw” on its own.
My case was so severe that I decided to undergo a shoulder arthroscopy and manipulation under anesthesia. Basically, they put me to sleep and forced my arm to move. My surgeon told me that “it sounds like popcorn” when he forces the arm to move to break up the scar tissue. After the surgeon forcibly moved my arm, he went in and performed an arthroscopy to remove the scar tissue.
It was the most painful thing I have ever had to recover from in my life, and I’ve given birth. People say that giving birth is the absolute pinnacle of pain, but I disagree.
The surgery itself is not very painful. With the nerve block and narcotics, the pain was tolerable. The shoulder, itself, did not really hurt.
What hurts is the physical therapy you are required to do after the surgery. They don’t tell you how bad the physical therapy is going to be. If they did, no one would get the surgery. It is a long and painful road. I am four months post-surgery. Every surgeon has a different post-op procedure, but I was scheduled for over 30 one-hour sessions. It is a race against the clock to ensure the surgery is a success. If you don’t do your physical therapy, the scar tissue returns and your surgery fails.
Unfortunately, surgery does not completely fix the frozen shoulder. You don’t wake up with 100% range of movement back. In fact, I had about the same range of movement I had before the surgery. In each physical therapy session, my therapist would have another therapist hold down my scapula and push my arm up as far as the pain would allow. My therapist always mentioned that my pain threshold was very high. I would let them push my arm until the point I was seeing stars and about to black out from pain. I went through this torture multiple times a week for the first month. Slowly, the range of motion started to come back, but very, very, slowly with A LOT of pain. I am almost four months out, and I still don’t have 100%, but I don’t have pain and there is slight improvement every day. I still do my at-home PT every day. The surgeon released me, but it can be up to another year before certain motions come back. They don’t tell you that.
I created a video to share my experience and give everyone an idea of how much the surgery costs and the time commitment you need to expect for recovery if you plan on getting surgery to fix your frozen shoulder.
Would I recommend getting surgery for your frozen shoulder? That depends. You MUST commit to the physical therapy. If you can’t, don’t waste your money and time. Expect pain. Expect it to not be immediate. If you can handle those aspects, get the surgery.
Consider watching my YouTube video that goes a bit more into detail about the costs associated with a shoulder surgery: