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Frozen shoulder? Don't shrug it off

A sedentary lifestyle and zero exercise of shoulder muscles are the triggers.

Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: September 19, 2010

Pratibha Pinto works as an executive assistant to the chief executive of a Gurgaon-based BPO firm. The 30-year-old has been working for nine years and spends more than 10 hours every day sitting in front of the computer. Six months ago, she slipped and hurt her left shoulder, but ignored it. "The work does not stop and I neglected my shoulder," she says. The consequence? A painful condition known as frozen shoulder.

"My doctor told me it was a lifestyle issue coupled with a small injury. Plus, I drive 37 km to work every day. That hardly helps," says Pinto. She needed arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, and is currently recuperating. Pinto is not alone. Young professionals like her are increasingly susceptible to adhesive capsulitis or fro zen shoulder, according to Dr I.P.S. Oberoi , Senior Consultant, Orthopaedics at Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon. "The condition was earlier associated with people over 40, but now we are seeing cases of frozen shoulder in people in their early 30s," says Oberoi. He treats 8-10 frozen shoulder cases every day.

Frozen shoulder is marked by stiffness of the shoulder joint that restricts movement. It's painful and usually starts from the dominant shoulder (the right shoulder for a right-hander). The pain is more severe at night and simple movements like combing hair, picking up articles and carrying a laptop become difficult. "The pain is pulsating and shooting. It may progress to fingers, arms, neck and elbows," explains Oberoi.

Orthopaedic experts say the prevalence of frozen shoulder among professionals is increasing due to sedentary lifestyles and a lack of exercise. "Along with diabetes and hypothyroidism, cases of frozen shoulder are also increasing. These two conditions can bring on frozen shoulder," says Oberoi. He recommends a plan of action to avoid a stiff shoulder.

If you are deskbound for several hours in a day, take frequent breaks. This could be a fiveminute break every one - and - a - half hours. "You can rest your shoulder, neck and even eyes in these five minutes," says Oberoi. The shoulder is the most mobile joint of the body. So, do rotate it to the full extent once a day. "You can gently massage the girdle of your shoulder if you feel some stiffness there when driving or working," says Oberoi.

Also, always maintain a good posture - the head should be up and the shoulder slightly back. Early detection is much better than handling an extremely painful condition. So, look for early signs of frozen shoulder like difficulty in picking up lightweight items, advises Oberoi. And if there's one thing you should lobby for at work, it's proper ergonomics.

HOW TO AVOID A STIFF SHOULDER

  • If you are desk-bound, take a break for five-odd minutes every one-anda-half hours to rest your shoulder and neck
  • The shoulder is the most mobile joint of the body. So, do rotate it fully once a day
  • Keep a good posture- the head should be up and the shoulder slightly back
  • Ask for a chair and workstation with good ergonomics
  • Look for early signs of frozen shoulder like difficulty in picking up lightweight items
  • Monitor your diabetes and hypothyroidism as those can lead to painful shoulder conditions

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