Frozen Shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is a condition that causes loss of mobility, stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. Symptoms of frozen shoulder develop gradually and, in most cases, resolve gradually on their own over an average of 1.5 years. With the help of medical professionals, this process can be made more manageable.

Stages & Symptoms

Frozen shoulder can be classified into three stages:

  • Freezing Stage: In this stage, every shoulder movement is painful, and as the pain increases, the range of motion of the shoulder becomes limited.
  • Frozen Stage: Although the pain may diminish during this stage, the stiffness will remain. Shoulder movements become more restricted as well.
  • Thawing Stage: In the thawing stage, shoulder motion gradually improves and the pain subsides.

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

The shoulder joint is composed of bones, ligaments and tendons, and is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. When this capsule starts to thicken and tighten, it leads to limited movements and causes frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is associated with diabetes or prolonged shoulder immobilization due to past injury or surgery.

Risk Factors

While the exact cause of frozen shoulder is still unknown, there are a few factors that increase the risk of developing the condition, including:

  • Age – It typically affects those who are 40 to 60 years old.
  • Gender – Women are more susceptible to developing frozen shoulder than men.
  • Immobility or reduced mobility – People who suffered a past injury or fracture, or underwent surgery that required immobilisation during recovery, have a higher risk of developing frozen shoulder.
  • Systemic diseases – Certain conditions can increase one’s risk of developing frozen shoulder, including diabetes and thyroid disease.
Diagnosing Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is diagnosed through a physical exam and an assessment of one’s medical history. During the consultation, you will be asked to perform certain movements for the doctor to examine the range of motion and degree of pain felt in the arms and shoulders.

In some cases, an X-ray or MRI may be requested in order to further verify structural problems, as well as to rule out other medical conditions.

Treatments for Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder gets better over time and there are various ways to manage the condition, depending on its severity.

  • Medication: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen may be prescribed to alleviate joint inflammation and pain.
  • Physiotherapy: Commonly used in the management of frozen shoulder, this involves regular and personalized exercises to regain mobility and maintain strength.
  • Surgery and Injections

    Steroid Injections
    Corticosteroids can be injected into the shoulder joint to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as increase mobility. This option is best administered during the early stages of frozen shoulder, though it is temporary.

    Frozen shoulder usually resolves on its own through conservative management. However, if symptoms persist, then shoulder surgery may be considered.

    This procedure is typically done through arthroscopy, in which scar tissue and adhesions in the shoulder joint are removed. A thin, lighted tube attached with a camera is used to help the shoulder surgeon visualise the structures better for more precise and effective outcomes.

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