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Frozen Shoulder also known as Adhesive Capsulitis

Frozen shoulder, also known as Adhesive Capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. The cause of a frozen shoulder is not well understood, but it often occurs for no known reason. Frozen shoulder causes the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint to contract and form scar tissue. Normally, the shoulder joint allows more motion than any other joint in the body. When a patient develops a frozen shoulder, the capsule that surrounds the shoulder joint becomes contracted. The patients form bands of scar tissue called adhesions. The contraction of the capsule and the formation of the adhesions cause the frozen shoulder to become stiff and cause movement to become painful.

Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually, worsen over time and then resolve, usually within one or two years.

Your risk of developing frozen shoulder increases if you’re recovering from a medical condition or procedure that affects the mobility of your arm — such as a stroke or a mastectomy.

Some risk factors for developing a frozen shoulder include:

  • Age & Gender: 
Frozen shoulder most commonly affects patients between the ages of 40 to 60 years old, and it is twice as common in women than in men.
  • Endocrine Disorders: 
Patients with diabetes are at particular risk for developing a frozen shoulder. Other endocrine abnormalities, such as thyroid problems, can also lead to this condition.
  • Shoulder Trauma or Surgery: Patients who sustain a shoulder injury, or undergo surgery on the shoulder can develop a frozen shoulder joint. When injury or surgery is followed by prolonged joint immobilization, the risk of developing a frozen shoulder is highest.
  • Your risk of developing frozen shoulder increases if you’re recovering from a medical condition or procedure that affects the mobility of your arm — such as a stroke or a mastectomy.

What are the typical symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

  • Shoulder pain; usually a dull, aching pain
  • Limited movement of the shoulder
  • Difficulty with activities such as brushing hair, putting on shirts/bras
  • Pain when trying to sleep on the affected shoulder

What are the stages of a frozen shoulder?

  • Painful/Freezing Stage:
 This is the most painful stage of a frozen shoulder. Motion is restricted, but the shoulder is not as stiff as the frozen stage. This painful stage typically lasts 6-12 weeks.
  • Frozen Stage: During the frozen stage, the pain usually eases up, but the stiffness worsens. The frozen stage can last 4-6 months.

Thawing Stage: The thawing stage is gradual, and motion steadily improves over a lengthy period of time. The thawing stage can last more than a year.

Treatment for frozen shoulder involves physical therapy, stretching exercises and, sometimes, the injection of corticosteroids and numbing medications into the joint capsule. In a small percentage of cases, surgery may be needed to loosen the joint capsule so that it can move more freely.