Frozen Shoulder

Have you ever heard someone say that they are suffering from frozen shoulder? It kind of sounds like a silly thing to say and it doesn't sound anything like most medical problems. Frozen shoulder does actually have a more more medical sounding name. It is called adhesive capsulitis, and it can be quite painful and over time it can become very hard to move because of the increased stiffness.

What is Happening?

To explain frozen shoulder, lets take a step back before we take two steps forward. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint which allows your shoulder to move your arm in a variety of directions and it is not limited like a hinge joint that can only move one of two directions. Your shoulder is made up of three bones including your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle). The top portion of the upper arm fits into the shallow socket in the shoulder blade and is held in by tissue that is extremely strong. This tissue is called the shoulder capsule and it surrounds the joints.

Within the shoulder there is a fluid that helps keep the joint lubricated which is called synovial fluid. Without this fluid the components within the shoulder would rub against each other much more violently causing pain and damage.

When someone experiences frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule thickens causing the joint to become tight. There is also the forming of adhesions that develop which are made up of stiff bands of tissue. Throughout this process, less synovial fluid is produced as well.

Frozen shoulder gets its name from causing people to literally not be able to move their shoulder, either on your own strength or with the help of others. Frozen shoulder has three major stages: Freezing, Frozen, and Thawing

Freezing - The freezing stage typically lasts 6-9 weeks and you slowly develop more and more pain and stiffness in the shoulder. This stage is also known as the Painful Stage. You will also lose range of motion.
Frozen - At the Frozen stage the pain may actually decrease, but the stiffness remains the same. The Frozen stage can last up to 4-6 months.
Thawing - In the Thawing stage you will slowly regain range of motion. This stage can take quite a long time. People experience this stage anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

As you can see, frozen shoulder is not a pleasant process to go through. Not only can the process be painful and prevent you from doing everyday tasks, but the process can take quite a long time.

Causes

Doctors do not know what directly causes Frozen Shoulder, but most people who experience Frozen Shoulder have gone through an extended period of time where their shoulder had been immobilized by things like surgery or injury. There is also a link to people with Diabetes.

Treatment

There are a variety of different ways to treat Frozen Shoulder. Nonsurgical treatments include Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling, steroid injections, and physical therapy. A vast majority (roughly 90%) of people can typically be treated with nonsurgical treatments.

Some people do require surgical treatments, but it is not necessary in most cases. The goal of surgery for frozen shoulder is to stretch and release the stiffened joint capsule. The most common methods include manipulation under anesthesia and shoulder arthroscopy.

  • Tarrant County Medical Society
  • TexasMedical Association
  • Texas Orthopaedic Association
  • International Society Of Orthopaedic
  • Western Orthopaedic Association