Frozen Shoulder

Attend to shoulder injuries promptly to avoid this painful condition. Keep in mind that the lack of movement caused by pain from a primary injury directly contributes to frozen shoulder.

"Frozen shoulder" is a term used to describe a painful shoulder condition known as adhesive capsulitis. Frozen shoulder usually starts with an injury that causes inflammation and pain in the joint. The pain causes you to avoid moving the shoulder, which leads to stiffening of the tissues around the joint. Lack of movement contributes to the development of adhesions (unions of the surrounding tissues) within a week to 10 days. Without treatment, the adhesions worsen until you cannot move your shoulder.

When frozen shoulder occurs, range of motion is limited because the ligaments and tissue around the shoulder joint are stiff.  Individuals of all ages are affected, but the condition is five times more common in people with diabetes mellitus than in the general population.

Anatomy and Symptoms
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint where the rounded end of your upper arm bone (humerus) sits in a shallow area on the shoulder blade (scapula). Connective tissue surrounds the joint forming the shoulder capsule. With frozen shoulder, the connective tissue is taut and sticky, making the joint painful and difficult to move.

Treatments vary depending on the severity of the condition. After evaluating the situation, your doctor may prescribe:

  • a home program of gentle exercises and stretches for your shoulder
  • anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or steroids to decrease pain and swelling, and/or
  • physical therapy.

In serious cases, hands-on manipulation of the shoulder or surgery may be indicated.

Addressing shoulder injuries early is the best way to prevent a frozen shoulder. Remember that the lack of movement caused by pain directly contributes to this condition.