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Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. Every moveable joint in your body: all of its bones, ligaments, and tendons that make up the joint, are encased in a capsule of connective tissue containing a lubricant called synovial fluid. In Frozen shoulder, the capsule around the shoulder becomes inflamed, and then thickens with scar tissue and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting its movement. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Most of the time, Frozen Shoulder develops when someone is recovering from a recent shoulder injury. It could have been as severe as a fracture, a dislocation, or surgery. It could have been a strain that made you not want to move your arm. After an arm or shoulder injury, your shoulder may be left immobilized in a cast or sling while you recover. You also may have adapted the way that you did certain things, like reaching up to get something from the top shelf, or how you washed your hair, or how you put on your clothes. Instead of using your shoulder joint, you started using your shoulder blade more (shrugging your shoulders to get more movement). Your ability to move your shoulder gets worse over time as it gets more painful. The less you move, the less you can move, and the more it hurts when you try. No one knows exactly why Adhesive Capsulitis happens, but this is the prevailing theory.

There are certain risk factors may increase your risk, like age, gender, and medical history. 

We mentioned that people who are recovering from a shoulder or arm injury are the most susceptible, but women and people over 40 are also at a higher risk

Some medical conditions will also increase your risk:

  • Diabetes

  • Thyroid conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Stroke​

This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this. Frozen Shoulder is not your friend:

Frozen shoulder symptoms typically appear gradually, worsen over time, and then resolve within one to three years. During this time, frozen shoulder syndrome will go through three phases. Each phase may last several weeks or months and can interfere with your quality of life.



3 Stages of Frozen Shoulder

Stage 1: Freezing (Painful)

Shoulder movement is painful, and limited. The pain is usually dull or achy and might be worse at night. Lasts from six weeks to nine months. 

Stage 2: Frozen

Shoulder pain begins to lessen, but your shoulder becomes stiff and movement is severely restricted. Lasts from three months to a full year.

Stage 3: Thawing

Over a period of six months to a year, the shoulder’s range of motion will slowly improve. Pain may occasionally recur but will fade out over time.

Traditional Medical Treatment

Most frozen shoulder cases go away on their own, but it could take up to three years! 

Traditional treatment options focus on managing the pain, but they don’t seek to find or fix the source of the pain. Your doctor is likely to order x-rays and imaging tests to help determine what’s causing your shoulder pain and rule out any other medical conditions.

Drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed in an attempt to reduce pain and swelling. They may inject lidocaine (a local anesthetic) or cortisone (a steroid). Injections can be quite painful, and the pain-relieving effects typically only last for a short period of time, if they help at all.

Physical therapy is often prescribed to improve strength and range-of-motion in the shoulder. In a small percentage of cases, arthroscopic surgery may also be recommended to loosen the joint capsule so that it can move more freely.

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