Is their a link between Diabetes and shoulder or upper limb pain?

It has long been understood that Frozen Shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is more common in patients with Diabetes. Frozen shoulder occurs in 2-5% of the general population compared to 10-20% of a diabetic population. Whilst frozen shoulder can occur after injury or following other conditions (bursitis, shoulder impingement etc), in many cases it occurs for no known reason.

A recent American study has shown that people with Diabetes are more likely to have problems with their hands and shoulders than those who don’t. Nearly two thirds of patients attending an outpatients diabetes clinic reported substantial pain and disability, compared to a control group of healthy subjects. The patients with diabetes had less strength, mobility and sensation in their hands and shoulders.

Whilst this studies findings are perhaps not surprising, what is of more interest is that many of the conditions suffered by patients with diabetes are non painful until their later stages. Most commonly, joint range of movement would be limited but non painful for a long time before the joint became painful. By the time a patient books a session of physiotherapy or sees their GP, the condition has already advanced to a later stage and is painful and often more difficult to treat. It seems logical that diabetic patients who notice limitations in their shoulder or upper limb range of movement, should seek assessment earlier and not wait for pain.

If you do notice increasing stiffness or lack of range that comes on for no particular reason and would like to see one of our Physiotherapists for assessment, please contact us.