Frozen Shoulder vs. Cervical Radiculopathy: Understanding the Differences as a Physiotherapist – An Evidence-Based Perspective

shoulder Pain Relief gel

Frozen shoulder and cervical radiculopathy are two different conditions that can cause similar symptoms in the shoulder region. As a physiotherapist, it is important to differentiate between the two conditions to provide evidence-based interventions and improve patient outcomes.

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not well understood, but it is thought to be related to inflammation and scarring of the joint capsule. The condition typically progresses through three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. Frozen shoulder is diagnosed through a combination of patient history, physical examination, and imaging studies such as X-rays or MRI.

Cervical radiculopathy, on the other hand, is a condition caused by compression or irritation of a nerve root in the neck region. This can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the shoulder, arm, and hand. Cervical radiculopathy can be caused by a variety of factors, including disc herniation, degenerative changes, and spinal stenosis. Diagnosis is usually made through patient history, physical examination, and imaging studies such as MRI or CT scan.

Although frozen shoulder and cervical radiculopathy can cause similar symptoms in the shoulder region, there are some key differences between the two conditions. For example:

  1. Pain location: In frozen shoulder, the pain is usually located in the shoulder joint itself, whereas in cervical radiculopathy, the pain may radiate from the neck down to the shoulder, arm, and hand.
  2. Stiffness: Frozen shoulder is characterized by stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint, whereas cervical radiculopathy may cause weakness and loss of coordination in the affected arm and hand.
  3. Onset: Frozen shoulder often develops gradually over a period of weeks to months, whereas cervical radiculopathy may have a sudden onset or develop gradually over time.

As a physiotherapist, it is important to differentiate between frozen shoulder and cervical radiculopathy to provide appropriate and evidence-based interventions. Treatment for frozen shoulder may include exercises, manual therapy, and modalities such as heat or cold therapy. Treatment for cervical radiculopathy may involve exercises, manual therapy, and modalities such as traction or nerve gliding exercises.

In summary, frozen shoulder and cervical radiculopathy are two distinct conditions that can cause similar symptoms in the shoulder region. It is important for a physiotherapist to accurately diagnose the condition and provide appropriate interventions to improve patient outcomes.