Winter May Be Over But Your Shoulder is Frozen!

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

The shoulder joint is susceptible to various types of ailments. Frozen shoulder is one of them. Often confused with arthritis, frozen shoulder is a condition that involves pain and stiffness similar to arthritis. It develops gradually and intensifies. Unlike arthritis which is often degenerative, frozen shoulder finally goes away. The cycle for frozen shoulder can take from one to three years.

Three bones form a ball-and-socket joint in the shoulder: the humerus, scapula and clavicle. These bones are held together by soft tissues which make up the joint. This combination of structures is called the shoulder capsule.

When you have frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule becomes thick and tight. Synovial fluid normally lubricates the joint, but with this condition there is less of this fluid present. Bands of scar tissue form. The joint then becomes stiff and difficult to move.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

The hallmark of frozen shoulder is the pain and stiffness that affect mobility. With this condition, movement is exceedingly difficult or impossible.

Frozen shoulder only affects one shoulder. You will probably feel a dull or achy pain in the shoulder and the muscles that wrap around the top of your arm. You may also feel this pain in your upper arm. Many individuals report more intense pain at night, which can interfere with sleeping.

Stages of Frozen Shoulder

There are three stages of frozen shoulder. Each stage has specific symptoms and lasts for a certain period of time.

Stage One – The Freezing Stage
In the beginning, you will notice pain in your shoulder any time you move it. Sometimes the pain may be quite intense. During the next six to nine months, the pain will get worse and it may become more intense at night. Shoulder motion becomes limited during this stage.

Stage Two – Frozen Stage
This stage of the condition can last from four months to a year. The pain will subside, but the stiffness increases. The stiffness during this stage can become severe enough to interfere with daily activities. Personal grooming, getting dressed and other daily activities become quite difficult.

Stage Three – Thawing Stage
This stage can last from six months to two years. When your shoulder begins to thaw, your range of motion begins to increase and return to normal.

Risk Factors of Frozen Shoulder

The exact reasons some people develop this condition are not known at this time. What is known is that some people have a higher risk of developing frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder is more likely to happen in women than men, although men do develop the condition. People between the ages of 40 and 60 are also more likely to get it. Recuperation from a medical condition or surgery that limits use of your arm increases the risk of developing the condition. Stroke victims and women who have had a mastectomy are examples of higher risk people.

There are also other medical conditions that increase your vulnerability to frozen shoulder. This condition affects from 10-20% of individuals with diabetes. Individuals with heart disease, thyroid problems or Parkinson’s disease are more at risk for developing frozen shoulder also.

Any medical or physical condition in which you experience immobility in one of your arms during recovery could result in developing frozen shoulder. If you have had an injury or illness that results in immobility, you should ask your doctor to recommend exercises to maintain the range of motion in your shoulder joint.


The main goal of treatment for frozen shoulder is pain management and preservation of some range of motion in the shoulder joint. In most situations, over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen are enough to reduce the inflammation and pain. If these are not effective, your doctor may prescribe stronger medication.

Physical therapy can be used to help you maintain and recover as much mobility as possible. Optimal recovery depends on your adherence to the routine exercises your physical therapist recommends.

Frozen shoulder usually improves on its own over time. If your symptoms are persistent, your doctor can create a treatment plan to help improve the condition. Contact Silicon Valley Orthopaedics for consultation about your frozen shoulder.

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