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Frozen Shoulder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Frozen Shoulder
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Frozen shoulder is also known as ‘Adhesive Capsulitis.’ In this condition, the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful. The buildup to the problem is a gradual process. It may persist up to three years, and then it finally goes away. The tissue surrounding the shoulder becomes tight, and there is a decrease in synovial fluid which is responsible for the lubrication of the joint. In most people, the recurrence of frozen shoulder doesn’t happen on the same side.

Causes

  1. Frozen shoulder happens more in women than men. Those who are in the age group of 40 to 60 years are more at risk. If the arm has been immobilized for some time, due to a fracture or an injury, the frozen shoulder may happen.
  2. If you are recovering from specific medical issues like a stroke or an invasive surgery like mastectomy, there could a high risk of suffering from a frozen shoulder.
  3. Diabetes increases the odds of suffering from frozen shoulder.
  4. Other medical problems like cardiac issues, thyroid problems, and Parkinson’s disease also increase vulnerability towards the frozen shoulder.

Symptoms

There are three stages to a frozen shoulder.

  1. Freezing Stage: The problem develops gradually as the movement in the shoulder becomes painful, and it starts locking up. The stage lasts from six weeks to nine months.
  2. Frozen Stage: In this stage, the pain may reduce, but the shoulder becomes stiffer. It becomes tough to make any movement through the joint. This stage lasts from four to six months.
  3. Thawing Stage: This is the last stage in which the range of motion improves. This stage may last from six months to two years.

Diagnosis

The doctor will do a physical exam and ask you to move the shoulder. Then the doctor will move the shoulder for you and note the difference. Depending on the severity of the situation, medication will be prescribed. The doctor may do an x-ray or an MRI.

Treatment

Treatment of frozen shoulder aims to reduce pain and restore mobility in the shoulder. Following lines of therapy may be adopted to combat the situation.

  1. Pain Killers: NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen may be given to reduce pain. They also relieve inflammation in the shoulder.
  2. Physical Therapy: Shoulder-specific exercises are recommended to restore motion. These can be done at home even. Sometimes heat treatment may be given to loosen up the shoulder and then only stretching or frozen shoulder exercises may be done.
  3. Steroid Injections: A corticosteroid injection may be given if the pain doesn’t go away with NSAIDs.
  4. Joint Distention: In this procedure, the doctor may inject some amount of a sterile liquid into the joint for shoulder expansion and stretching.
  5. Surgery: If all the usual methods of treating frozen shoulder don’t relieve the pain and the symptoms, surgery might be the next option. The chances of this happening are very rare as the problem usually gets treated with the conservative methods.

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