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Frozen Shoulder: Cause, Symptoms, and Treatments

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Is your shoulder stiff and difficult to move? Is it hard to perform simple tasks like reaching forward or backward because of the pain and stiffness in your shoulder? If this is you, you are probably suffering from a condition called adhesive capsulitis, more commonly known as frozen shoulder.

Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint, which means there is a ball-type joint at the tip of the bone in your upper arm. The ball rests in the socket (also known as the capsule) and can move around in a wider range of motion than a simple joint such as a wrist joint. This is why you can move your shoulder in circles and your wrist can only move back and forth. Frozen shoulder occurs when there is excessive scarring, thickening, or shrinking of the shoulder joint capsule, making it very difficult for the ball to move within it.

The Cause

Those between 40 and 60 years of age, particularly women, are prone to frozen shoulder. The exact cause is unclear, but these things are also noted to increase the occurrence of frozen shoulder:

  • A past shoulder injury or shoulder surgery

  • Diabetes

  • Drastic health conditions or diseases (such as stroke, heart disease, or Parkinson’s disease)

  • Tendonitis

  • Chronic arthritis

Symptoms and Signs

As mentioned previously, the major symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain, stiffness, and very limited movement in the shoulder joint. Generally, the symptoms go through these three phases before healing:

Freezing—The beginning of the three phases, the freezing stage lasts 2-9 months and is characterized by pain and stiffness that gets progressively worse as time goes on. The pain is usually more severe at night.

Frozen—This stage lasts 4-12 months and entails a gradual decrease in pain, but an increase in shoulder immobility.

Thawing—This stage is also known as the recovery stage, though it can last for 1-3 years. It involves the diminishing of pain and stiffness and the return of mobility.

Treatment

With no treatment, frozen shoulder will generally disappear on its own after 1-3 years. However, your quality of life will improve drastically if you consider some of the treatment options here:

  • Pain and anti-inflammatory relief medication

  • Physiotherapy

  • Shoulder exercises/physical therapy

  • Steroid injections

  • Surgery

Prevention

A major factor in prevention would be careful and progressive range of motion exercises, particularly after a shoulder injury, or if you have arthritis or another condition listed above. Because the cause of frozen shoulder is not clearly understood, prevention techniques are not guaranteed, though studies show that they have been successful in many cases.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, it would benefit you to see an orthopaedic specialist as soon as you can. Call today to make an appointment with Dr. Skedros.

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