Frozen Shoulder

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is a condition in which there is pain and stiffness or motion loss in the shoulder. The condition most often affects people between 40 and 60 years old and is more common in women. Frozen shoulder does not appear to be linked to arm dominance or occupation.

What causes frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder occurs as the area around the shoulder joint thickens and contracts. However, the reasons for the condition are not fully understood. It sometimes occurs after the shoulder is immobilized for some period of time. Frozen shoulder is more common among people with diabetes and affects 10% to 20% of diabetics. The increased likelihood of frozen shoulder also is linked to the following medical problems:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cardiac disease or surgery
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder?

The most frequent symptoms of frozen shoulder are restricted motion and pain. The pain is worse when trying to reach beyond the restricted motion of the shoulder during activities away from the body or overhead. Many people can no longer reach behind their back to get dressed. During the initial phase of frozen shoulder, any movement causes pain. During the next phase, activity in front of the body is less painful, and the pain only becomes severe when reaching above the shoulder or out to the side.

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

The diagnosis is established with a doctor’s examination and based on the symptoms the patient is having. Xrays can help confirm the diagnosis by making sure there is no other problem that could be restricting shoulder motion.

Frozen shoulder – symptoms, risk factors and treatment
How is frozen shoulder treated?

There are various treatments for frozen shoulder. Even though the condition usually gets better on its own, improvement can take one to two years. Over 90% of patients improve with non-surgical treatments, including the following:

  • Physical therapy – Supine Elevation Stretch, External rotation stretch and behind the back stretch (see videos)
  • Heat
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Anti-inflammatory medications

Surgery can be performed for patients who see no improvement after non-surgical measures are taken. With surgical intervention, the goal is to stretch or release the shoulder’s contracted joint capsule. This surgery can be done arthroscopically using small incisions around the shoulder.

Supine elevation stretching
External Rotation Stretching