What Is Frozen Shoulder?

When you have pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in your shoulder, you may have adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder. Women more commonly have the condition as compared to men and it usually shows up between the ages of 40 and 60.

Frozen shoulder is characterized by gradually worsening symptoms that severely limit your shoulder’s ability to function. In most cases, frozen shoulder can be resolved with physical therapy and sometimes corticosteroids injected into the shoulder joint. Rarely, surgery is required to loosen the joint capsule, so you can move more freely.

Read on to learn the risk factors for developing frozen shoulder and what to do if you suspect you have it.

About frozen shoulder

The ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is where three bones meet – the humerus, or upper arm bone; the scapula, or shoulder blade; and the collarbone, or clavicle. Your upper arm bone fits into your shoulder blade and is surrounded by the shoulder capsule – a collection of connective tissue. Synovial fluid, a natural compound, lubricates movement of the bones and soft tissue in the joint.

When you have a frozen shoulder, this capsule of connective tissue grows thick and tight. The amount of synovial fluid present may also diminish. This leads to the shoulder dysfunction known as frozen shoulder.

Three phases of frozen shoulder

The symptoms and lack of range of movement at the shoulder tend to develop gradually and usually follows the course of three separate phases.

First, the shoulder freezes. Your pain levels increase, and your shoulder loses its range of motion. This phase usually lasts from six weeks up to nine months.

When your shoulder is in the phase of being fully frozen, your pain may improve, but your range of motion limitation and shoulder stiffness persist. You may have trouble with daily activities, such as putting groceries away or brushing your hair, for four to six months.

Frozen shoulder typically resolves itself in the thawing stage. Your end result may be normal movement – or close to it – and full strength in six months to two years.

Risk factors for developing frozen shoulder

You’re at greater risk of developing frozen shoulder if you have diabetes, or other diseases such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, some cardiac diseases, and Parkinson’s disease.

Frozen shoulder sometimes develops following a period of immobilization, such as after surgery or a fracture. This is why participating in physical therapy as soon as possible following an injury or surgery is a critical part of your rehabilitation.

Symptoms of frozen shoulder

Dr. Nassiri reviews your symptoms and can determine if your shoulder issues are, indeed, frozen shoulder. The pain is usually aching dull, rather than sharp. You’ll experience the worst pain at the beginning of the disease, usually at the outer shoulder area and sometimes in the upper arm.

If you feel pain in your shoulder and diminished ability to move it in all directions, call Westside Pain Specialists. Dr. Nassiri can help moderate pain and improve your function so that you feel better and are more able to function every day.

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