QUESTION: I am a 57-year-old female who has to undergo unfreezing of my shoulder. It sounds like it might be painful. Is it? I am hoping they will anesthetize me, because I am your basic chicken when it comes to pain. - Mrs. Y.N.

ANSWER: You don't have to worry. You will be given a general anesthetic for the procedure.I am wondering how your shoulder got that way. Most frozen joints occur from extended disuse, as when the person is injured or suffers from prolonged bouts of bursitis involving the joint.

You are getting the ultimate treatment. Most frozen joints respond to time and gradual physical therapy. Sometimes, cortisone injection into the area reduces inflammation sufficiently to permit exercise therapy. But when all fails, then the forceful manipulation or surgery become options.

QUESTION: What usually causes a sinus headache? Is it like migraine, for example? - F.K.

ANSWER: Sinus headache usually results from chronic sinusitis, which is an ongoing, low-level infection. Eventually, sinuses become blocked and pressure builds locally. You can often locate the precise infection area by placing finger pressure over it. Sharp pain results.

These headaches have nothing to do with migraines, which are related to activity of brain blood vessels.

QUESTION: I would like a rundown on lichen planus, specifically how it progresses. Is cortisone cream a sufficient treatment? I've had this a few weeks and it seems to spread. - M.M.

ANSWER: For other readers, let me describe this skin problem. In it, there are rather flat patches of angular shape. The rash usually occurs on wrists and lower arms and legs, although a few may have it in other areas - like genitals and mouth. Some cases of easy nail splitting can be attributed to lichen planus.

This is not an illness where any predictions can be made early on. Most patients with lichen planus respond to the cortisone ointments to which you refer, and newer drugs are being studied, like retinoids.

In 85 percent of cases, clearing of lichen planus occurs in a year or two at most. Only rarely does it become a severe problem, with rash spread becoming quite extensive. That is a most unusual development.

QUESTION: Please give advice for a person who has ear pain when on a landing airplane. - N.B.

ANSWER: Usually, the person with this problem has something amiss in the eustachian tubes. Allergic people or those with a temporary cold can have a built-in setting for painful ears.

The problem with the eustachian tubes begins with an irritation, whether from allergy swelling or from a cold-virus infection. There is a closing off of the throat surface openings of those ear tubes. That alters the air pressure in the ears, which the tubes serve, to the point where they cannot adjust to the pressure change in the plane cabin during descent.

The best answer is to shrink the swollen throat tissue with anticongestants about an hour before landing.

1992 North America Syndicate Inc.