Q My partner, 45, a carpenter, has been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder after eight months of pain and immobility. I understand it can take a long time to improve, but I wonder if anything might help?
A A true frozen shoulder is stuck in an immobile position and cannot be lifted above the horizontal. It always starts with stiffness and pain, often extreme and often disturbing sleep. The initial partial restriction of movement gradually progresses to complete lack of movement – by this point, the pain often subsides. The cause is usually lifting, pulling, stretching, or some repetitive action, says consultant rheumatologist Dr Rodney Hughes of St Peters Hospital in Surrey.
Frozen shoulders will eventually resolve on their own, but this can take from 12 to 24 months. Surgery, in which the surgeon forcibly moves the shoulder under anaesthetic causing muscle tears, is reserved for extreme cases.
There are ways of helping the process. Although your partner has left it too late for some options, other readers may be able to act more promptly.
Consult your GP as early as possible. Dr Hughes suggests treating any pain with anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen, as long as they don’t upset the tummy or worsen asthma. (Never take such products on an empty stomach.) Alternatively, paracetamol may help.
A standard X-ray is always advisable, to ensure there is no underlying shoulder damage. In a true frozen shoulder, it will be normal. MRI scans are usually unnecessary.
If the shoulder is treated early with a steroid injection, by an experienced practitioner, it can bring considerable relief and stop the loss of movement, says Dr Hughes. When severe movement loss has occurred, joint injections help less and can aggravate the pain.
Daily rose hip supplements may help, says Dr Hughes. Research in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology suggests that extract of rose hip, which contains an omega-6 like fatty acid called GOPO, can relieve inflammation and help pain, without the side effects of conventional painkillers. Litozin Joint Health Sachets, £20.42 for 20, from Victoria Health.
Complementary therapies may be beneficial. Acupuncture is good for muscle spasms and has anecdotally relieved shoulder pain. (For qualified practitioners, baar.org) Magnesium helps to relax muscles and nerves and has been beneficial with similar problems. Magnesium Oil Joint Spray, £12.30. Also try Tiger Balm White, £4.75, or BlocPain Spray, £11.95.
Also try hot compresses. A hand towel soaked in hot water, wrung out and wrapped over the area is soothing.
Four of the Best…. Dance fitness DVDs.
Barreworks: Exercises with the Ball £15 (barreworks.co.uk)
A step-by-step programme based on ballet moves with a mini-softball (supplied) gives you an intense full body workout, which exercises every muscle and leaves you feeling great, if a little achy! Our favourite!
Tracey Anderson Method: Dance & Cardio 2, RRP £19.99 (amazon.co.uk)
This non-stop and gruelling but fun work-out focuses mainly on cardio exercises to dance music. Fans include Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez , Cheryl Cole and Victoria Beckham. Bear in mind you need space to follow the moves.
The Only Way Is Essex: The Essexercise Workout, RRP £19.99 (amazon.co.uk)
The Essex girls talk you through this easy-to follow three-stage work-out – aerobics, dance and kick-boxing. The music is brilliant, with modern chart hits along with retro 80s dance.
Arlene Philips: Dance to the musicals £18.99 (amazon.co.uk)
With dance routines set to famous musical songs (think Flashdance, Footloose and Fame!) you can’t help singing while you dance. Arlene gives thorough explanations of the moves both on the DVD and in the accompanying book.
Eco Toys For Little Softies
Green mums (and godmothers) will love miYim organic toys for babies and toddlers. As well as plush or knitted dolls, animals and pram toys, there’s the Jane Goodall Wild Animal collection, with a fab gorilla. (Some proceeds go to the Jane Goodall Institute.) From about £18, from jojomamanbebe.co.uk, tel: 0871 423 5656.
If your jeans won’t quite fit round your post-Christmas waistline, here’s my advice. Don’t go on a calorie-controlled diet. You might lose weight short term, but long term 98 per cent of people put back all the weight they’ve lost, and often more. Instead, invest a modest £7.99 in nutritionist Zoe Harcombe’s bestselling book Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing Weight – The Harcombe Diet (Accent Press). Based on Zoe’s personal experience, this healthy eating plan is practical and it works. You’ll probably feel healthier than you have for years.