Frozen shoulder is a painful condition that typically comes on gradually and goes through 3 specific stages, before finally resolving. Those most at risk for developing this condition are women over the age of 40, or someone who has experienced some type of shoulder immobility due to a stroke, a mastectomy or another shoulder injury. Individuals with diabetes, thyroid issues, cardiovascular disease, or those who have Parkinson’s Disease, are at greater risk for developing frozen shoulder syndrome.
Frozen Shoulder Symptoms
Individuals experiencing frozen shoulder syndrome typically go through 3 stages. The first stage, also known as the “freezing stage”, is characterized by increasing pain in the shoulder area, along with a decreasing range of motion. Next is the “frozen stage”, where the pain level subsides, but the shoulder area stiffens and becomes very difficult to use. The last stage is the “thawing” stage, where the range of motion of the shoulder area begins to improve. These various stages can last for months at a time, making it very difficult for an individual to engage in their normal activity level.
Shoulder joints are enclosed within a protective capsule made up of connective tissue. In some people, the connective tissue that makes up the capsule begins to thicken and tighten around the various parts of the shoulder joint, causing pain and restricting movement. Those who recently have had to keep their shoulder joint immobile due to an injury, or have had limited ability to use their shoulder as in the case of a stroke or a mastectomy, are more likely to also experience a frozen shoulder.
Over-the-counter NSAIDS can help relieve the painful symptoms of frozen shoulder. In some cases, doctors can prescribe stronger drugs to help relieve pain. A series of physical therapy treatments is often prescribed to recover mobility of the shoulder area and increase range of motion. In most cases, frozen shoulder syndrome will resolve within 12-18 months. For more severe cases, physicians might inject a corticosteroid shot into the affected area to reduce pain, thus increasing a patient’s ability to use their shoulder. In rare cases, surgeons will conduct an arthroscopic surgical procedure designed to remove adhesions and scar tissue that is preventing use of the shoulder.
Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is available to provide you with comprehensive orthopaedic care. If you are experiencing pain or stiffness in your shoulder that doesn’t resolve with time and rest, contact us at (757) 873-1554 for an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists.