What is Frozen Shoulder?

We use our shoulders so many times a day that we may not even think about the value this joint provides. An experience in which severe pain occurs in the shoulder when no obvious injury has occurred can be confusing. Often, such an experience is coupled with an inability to move the arm. This is a condition that is commonly referred to as frozen shoulder. Medically, we call it adhesive capsulitis, a problem that results from inflammation in the lining of the shoulder joint that has led to the formation of scar tissue. It is this scar tissue that prevents movement or, as we say, freezes the shoulder.

Any person of any age could develop frozen shoulder. Statistics indicate that approximately 70% of cases involve women between the ages of 40 and 70. Currently, there is no known cause, only known factors that could contribute to inflammation in the shoulder. These include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and thyroid problems (over- or underactive thyroid). The risk for frozen shoulder is also increased if a previous shoulder injury has been sustained or if surgery has been performed on the breasts or chest.

The Stages of Frozen Shoulder

There are three unique stages of frozen shoulder. Each can last months.

  1. During the freezing stage, pain occurs anytime the shoulder or arm is moved. Pain may worsen at night and also progressively become worse as freezing deepens.
  2. The frozen or adhesive stage usually involves less pain. However, shoulder immobility may be worse. When the shoulder is frozen, daily activities may be a challenge.
  3. This recovery stage of frozen shoulder sees an improvement in range of motion. The progression of recovery can last several months to two years.

Sometimes, a person can go through all three stages of frozen shoulder spontaneously. However, due to the length of time it can take for the shoulder to transition through each stage (up to ten years, total), many people seek treatment.

An orthopedic specialist has several ways to treat the pain and movement limitations caused by frozen shoulder. While surgery is an option, most doctors prefer to utilize noninvasive and minimally invasive therapies before considering surgical intervention. Medications may be prescribed or recommended to reduce inflammation. If symptoms do not improve, corticosteroid injections may be administered. Physical therapy can also help restore mobility and comfort to the affected joint.

Get the answers you need about shoulder pain and stiffness. Call 973 942 1315 to schedule a visit to our Parsippany, Clifton, or Wayne office.

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