What Is Frozen Shoulder?

What Is Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is a condition that causes pain and stiffness within the shoulder joint. Many people report experiencing increased shoulder pain at night, which can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Symptoms of frozen shoulder generally appear gradually and worsen over time, with the progression divided into three stages:

  • The freezing stage - During this stage, range of motion within the shoulder joint starts decreasing, with almost any movement causing pain.
  • The frozen stage - Although shoulder pain may decrease during this stage, stiffness will worsen.
  • The thawing stage - During this final stage, shoulder stiffness begins to decrease and range of motion improves.

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

To understand what causes frozen shoulder to develop, it helps to know a little bit about the anatomy of the shoulder. The shoulder joint includes bones, ligaments, and tendons, all of which are encapsulated in connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when this connective tissue starts getting thicker and tightening, making it more difficult to move the joint.

The scientific community has yet to determine exactly why frozen shoulder develops in certain individuals. However, there are a number of risk factors that can increase someone’s chances of developing this condition. For instance, you may be more likely to develop frozen shoulder if you:

  • Are over age 40
  • Are a woman
  • Have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), Parkinson’s disease, or tuberculosis
  • Recently experienced an illness or injury that prevented you from moving your arm (such as a fracture or a stroke)
  • Recently underwent a procedure that prevented you from moving your arm (such as a rotator cuff repair or a mastectomy)

How Is Frozen Shoulder Treated?

In many cases, frozen shoulder can be effectively treated using conservative methods, possibly including:

  • Pain medication
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Gentle exercises designed to increase range of motion
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Corticosteroid injections

In some cases, however, surgery may be necessary. During frozen shoulder surgery, the surgeon will loosen the connective tissue to encourage greater range of motion. 

Can Frozen Shoulder Return?

Many people who undergo treatment for frozen shoulder are concerned that the condition will resurface again in the future. It’s fairly uncommon for frozen shoulder to redevelop in the same shoulder. However, it’s important to note that this condition may develop in the other shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment in the Greater Durham, NC, Area

If you’re in Durham, North Carolina, or the surrounding area and you’re concerned that you might have frozen shoulder, you can turn to North Carolina Orthopaedic Clinic for treatment. Since our founding in 2003, we’ve earned a reputation for providing specialized care and personalized service to patients in our community.

Contact North Carolina Orthopaedic Clinic today to request an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. We understand just how much of a toll frozen shoulder can take on your daily life, and we look forward to meeting with you and helping you achieve relief from your shoulder pain.