Definition

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is stiffness, pain, and limited range of movement in your shoulder. It may happen after an injury or overuse or from a disease such as diabetes or a stroke. The tissues around the joint stiffen, scar tissue forms, and shoulder movements become difficult and painful. The condition usually comes on slowly, then goes away slowly over the course of a year or more.

 

How common is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

 

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder?

The most pervasive sign or symptom of frozen shoulder is a persistently painful and stiff shoulder joint. Signs and symptoms of frozen shoulder develop gradually; usually in three stages in which signs and symptoms worsen gradually and resolve within a two – year period.

 

Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly, and in three stages. Each stage can last a number of months.

  • Freezing stage. Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, and your shoulder’s range of motion starts to become limited.
  • Frozen stage. Pain may begin to diminish during this stage. However, your shoulder becomes stiffer, and using it becomes more difficult.
  • Thawing stage. The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.

For some people, the pain worsens at night, sometimes disrupting sleep.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

 

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes frozen shoulder?

The bones, ligaments, and tendons that make up your shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting its movement.

 

Doctors aren’t sure why this happens to some people, although it’s more likely to occur in people who have diabetes or those who recently had to immobilize their shoulder for a long period, such as after surgery or an arm fracture.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for frozen shoulder?

There are many risk factors for frozen shoulder, such as:

People 40 and older, particularly women, are more likely to have frozen shoulder.

 

People who’ve had prolonged immobility or reduced mobility of the shoulder are at higher risk of developing frozen shoulder. Immobility may be the result of many factors, including:

  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Broken arm
  • Stroke
  • Recovery from surgery
  • Systemic diseases

 

People who have certain diseases appear more likely to develop frozen shoulder. Diseases that might increase risk include:

  • Diabetes
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

 

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

During the physical exam, your doctor may ask you to move in certain ways to check for pain and evaluate your range of motion (active range of motion). Your doctor might then ask you to relax your muscles while he or she moves your arm (passive range of motion). Frozen shoulder affects both active and passive range of motion.

 

In some cases, your doctor might inject your shoulder with a numbing medicine (anesthetic) to determine your passive and active range of motion.

 

Frozen shoulder can usually be diagnosed from signs and symptoms alone. But your doctor may suggest imaging tests — such as X-rays or an MRI — to rule out other problems.

 

How is frozen shoulder treated?

Most frozen shoulder treatment involves controlling shoulder pain and preserving as much range of motion in the shoulder as possible.

 

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with frozen shoulder. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs.

 

A physical therapist can teach you range-of-motion exercises to help recover as much mobility in your shoulder as possible. Your commitment to doing these exercises is important to optimize recovery of your mobility.

 

Most frozen shoulders get better on their own within 12 to 18 months. For persistent symptoms, your doctor may suggest:

  • Steroid injections. Injecting corticosteroids into your shoulder joint may help decrease pain and improve shoulder mobility, especially in the early stages of the process.
  • Joint distension. Injecting sterile water into the joint capsule can help stretch the tissue and make it easier to move the joint.
  • Shoulder manipulation. In this procedure, you receive a general anesthetic, so you’ll be unconscious and feel no pain. Then the doctor moves your shoulder joint in different directions, to help loosen the tightened tissue.
  • Surgery for frozen shoulder is rare, but if nothing else has helped, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove scar tissue and adhesions from inside your shoulder joint. Doctors usually perform this surgery with lighted, tubular instruments inserted through small incisions around your joint (arthroscopically).

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage frozen shoulder?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with frozen shoulder:

  • Continue to use the involved shoulder and extremity as much as possible given your pain and range-of-motion limits.
  • Applying heat or cold to your shoulder to help relieve pain.
  • Gentle, progressive range-of-motion exercises, stretching, and using your shoulder more may help prevent frozen shoulder after surgery or an injury.

 

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you. 

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: June 16, 2017 | Last Modified: June 16, 2017

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