Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where a person’s shoulder joint is stiff and painful. The pain and stiffness may worsen over a period of one or two years and then resolve. Frozen shoulder usually occurs in three phases. Phase one may include pain with any movement of your shoulder. The pain may limit your shoulder’s range of motion. Some people experience more pain at night and this may make it hard to sleep. During the frozen phase, pain may decrease, but the shoulder will feel stiff and be difficult to move. The thawing phase is when stiffness deceases and the range of motion in your shoulder starts to improve.
The ligaments, tendons, and bones in your shoulder joint are covered in a capsule of connective tissue. When this capsule thickens and tightens in the shoulder joint, it causes limited movement. The exact reason for frozen shoulder is unknown to doctors, but certain factors may increase your risk of developing frozen shoulder.
Frozen shoulder is more likely to occur in individuals 40 and older. It is also more common for women to develop this condition. Individuals who have prolonged immobility or reduced mobility of their shoulder are more likely to develop frozen shoulder. Immobility risk factors may include rotator cuff injury, broken arm, stroke, and recovery from surgery. Individuals who have diabetes, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, and Parkinson’s disease may be predisposed to develop frozen shoulder. Doctors perform a physical exam to evaluate pain and range of motion. Treatment options may include over-the-counter pain relievers, physical therapy, and for persistent symptoms it may include steroid injections, joint distension, shoulder manipulation and surgery. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with frozen shoulder, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.