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An Overview: Frozen Shoulder

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Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, is a condition resulting in stiffness and pain. It occurs when the joint capsule, which is made up of tissues, thickens and restricts movement of the shoulder joint.

Doctors are unsure of the exact cause of frozen shoulder, but it is more likely to surface in those who cannot move their shoulder due to injury or previous surgery that requires immobilization. It is also more likely to occur in patients with certain conditions, like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and an overactive or underactive thyroid.

What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder?

The symptoms of frozen shoulder occur gradually, but can get worse over time. Essentially, frozen shoulder presents itself in three stages. The first stage (the freezing stage) involve stiffness, limited range of motion, and pain before leading into the second stage (the frozen stage), which is a completely frozen shoulder. The pain can get worse at night and make sleeping difficult. The third stage, also referred to as the thawing stage, is when the symptoms improve. Each stage can take several months.

How is frozen shoulder treated?

Frozen shoulder should improve on its own in 12 to 18 months. It is diagnosed with a physical exam, but diagnostic testing might be done to rule out other causes. Exercises can be done to improve range of motion, and medications, corticosteroids, and numbing injections can be used to relieve pain. In more extreme cases, surgery may be performed to loosen the joint capsule or remove scar tissue and allow the shoulder to move more freely. Shoulder manipulation is another option for loosening tissue and providing relief.