I've been with a painful shoulder for almost a year now. Recently, I was diagnosed with 'diabetic frozen shoulder', something I have never heard about before. Well, apparently, a big thing in the diabetes community.
My diagnose triggered a bit of research on my side. I've shared this widely in social media and I got an overwhelming response within the diabetes online community. I've found diabetics who got frozen shoulder in both shoulders! Also, cases of bad diagnose: please check that what you actually have is not a torn rotator cuff - as symptoms may be similar at the beginning.
With that in mind, I decided to post here some of the answers I've found to treat or cope with a frozen shoulder. I hope this would be useful for other diabetics like me who are going through this extremely uncomfortable long process of healing.
Please bear in mind I have lived with diabetes type 1 for 25 years but I'm not a doctor. Therefore, please do your own research and check your sources. At the end of this post, you can find the references.
A quick advice: pay attention to your posture at work and sleeping position.
Diabetic frozen shoulder? What is the main cause of frozen shoulder?
Sadly, people with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing adhesive capsulitis -commonly known as frozen shoulder-. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can affect collagen, which is a major protein that makes up our connective tissue.
Bad news, everybody will tell you different things. This process can take up to six to nine months or to three years, although it may take only a few months for the lucky ones. I'm in my 11th month and things are not improving as I would like to.
What is the fastest way to get rid of a frozen shoulder?
That is a good question! This is a complete mystery to medicine (as many other things).
Some things I've tried:
- Acupuncture - I go often, it helps me a lot
- Chinese cupping - great to relieve the pain
- Ice packs - it helps if you cannot sleep but only temporary
- Physiotherapy - didn't work well for me
- Cortisone injections - good stuff but cortisone play havoc with your sugars (I had to change my basal x6 for a few days). Be aware that cortisone is not always effective for all people.
Some things other people with diabetes have recommended me:
- Shoulder manipulation under local anaesthetic followed up with daily stretching exercises over a couple of months.
- Deep massage
- Saline injection - a few litres pumped in and people experience relief for a few months. It could be an alternative to cortisone, I think.
- Frozen shoulder - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic, 2021
- I have frozen shoulder. Is this related to my diabetes? - American Diabetes Association, July 01, 2020
- Review of diabetic frozen shoulder - European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery & Traumatology 28 (3–4), April 2018
- Analytical Observational Study of Frozen Shoulder among Patients with Diabetes Mellitus - Joints, 2018
- Thawing Out a Frozen Shoulder, with Diabetes - Healthline, Diabetes Mine