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How to Diagnose a Frozen Shoulder

Consultant News

This week, we sat down and spoke with the Shoulder Unit’s Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Toby Baring to find out about the common misconceptions, early symptoms and treatment options you can expect if you think you’re suffering from a Frozen Shoulder.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you currently practice?

After qualifying from Newcastle Medical school in 2000 I gained a postgraduate doctorate at Imperial College London and completed my postgraduate orthopaedic training at the National Orthopaedic Royal Hospital. In 2013 I undertook a Fellowship in Nice, France working with world-renowned shoulder specialist Prof Pascal Boileau. I currently practice at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, The London Clinic and I have been part of The Shoulder Unit at The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth since 2016.

How common is a frozen shoulder?

A Frozen Shoulder will affect between 2-5% of the general population – so very common, but  I see and treat on average 5 new cases a week here at the Shoulder Unit.

Is there a typical demographic/patient more prone?

It is strongly associated with those who suffer from diabetes and it’s often seen after a mild injury to the shoulder. Typically, it’s more common in females aged between  40-60 with the ratio being approx. 4/3 females to males.

What are the first symptoms experienced by the patient?

The first symptoms often experienced by the patient presents as non specific shoulder pain. Typically, the pain comes on spontaneously and therefore the patient may instantly assume this has been caused as a result of a sports injury or a form of physical activity. If however this is left untreated, over a 2-3 month period it will slowly get progressively worse with the patient experiencing stiffness and pain that will have an affect on their day to day duties. Waking night pain and severe pain on sudden movement of the shoulder are very common symptoms.

What is the first point of call for a patient if they experience symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

I would advise the patient to book an appointment with their GP.

What could someone expect from their consultation?

Your GP should perform a history and examination and you may be sent for an X-ray – this is something we would encourage.

What treatment options are available?

A patient could either be treated by Physiotherapy alone or be given an injection called hydrodilatation/hydrodistension. Another option and only in extreme cases keyhole surgery may be performed to remove scar tissue.

Are their any common misconceptions about a frozen shoulder?

It can be quite a difficult condition to diagnose in the early phases and therefore can be misconstrued, misdiagnosed and then not treated as a Frozen Shoulder. Contrary to popular belief, often patients retain a reasonable amount of movement due to compensatory movement of the shoulder blade.

What are the benefits of someone coming to The Shoulder Unit?

At the Shoulder Unit, we can offer a quick and accurate diagnoses followed by appropriate treatment to expedite recovery enabling you to return to your normal lifestyle.

Book an appointment at the Shoulder Unit

We have a team of five specialist Orthopaedic surgeons including Mr Toby Baring making up the Shoulder Unit, offering flexible appointment times to fit around your schedule. If you would like to make an appointment you can contact us by calling 020 7806 4004, or emailing shoulderunit@hje.org.uk


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