Frozen Shoulder

What is frozen shoulder?  

Frozen shoulder is a condition which is characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. The condition is also known as adhesive capsulitis. The signs and symptoms of the condition starts gradually and gets worse within one or two years. If the patient is recovering from a condition that affects the motion of the arm, he/she is at an increased risk for developing frozen shoulder.


What are the symptoms and signs of frozen shoulder?

The condition develops very slowly, and in three stages. Each stage may last for a few months. Thes stages are:
Painful stage: Pain occurs when making any movement of the shoulder. It may limit the range of motion of the shoulder.

Frozen stage: Pain may decrease during this stage. But, the shoulder become stiffer and the shoulder motion decreases highly.

Thawing stage: With this stage, the range of motion will start to improve.

What are the causes of frozen shoulder?

When the capsule that bind the bones, ligaments, and tendons of the shoulder joint thickens and tightens, frozen shoulder occurs. It restricts the movement. Doctors are not sure why this occurs in some people.

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

Apart from physical examination, the doctor will suggest tests such as X-ray and MRI to confirm the condition. The doctor may ask the patient to perform certain action to check the pain and range of movements. Some of them are:

Hands up
Opposite shoulder
Back scratch

What are the treatment options for frozen shoulder?

The main aim of the treatment is to control the pain and maintain the range of motion of the shoulder joint. Major treatment options start from medications.


Over-the-counter pain medications are suggested for pain control and inflammation. Stronger pain-relieving medications are prescribed in severe cases.


The doctor may suggest therapies and exercises to preserve the mobility of the shoulder joint. A physical therapist will teach you appropriate stretching exercises to smoothen the functioning of the shoulder joint.


If the symptoms persist for more than 12 or 18 months even after trying other nonsurgical treatment options, the doctor may suggest the following options:

Joint distension

It is a procedure in which sterile water is injected into the joint capsule. The procedure helps in stretching the tissue and making the movements easier.

Steroid injection

It will help to decrease the pain and increase the mobility of the joint.

Shoulder manipulation

The procedure is done under general anesthesia. After when the patient falls asleep, the doctor will move the shoulder joint in different directions. This procedure will help to loosen the tightened tissue. The procedure may cause bone fracture if the doctor uses an increased amount of force.


If all the other treatment options fail to yield any positive results, surgery may be suggested. The surgery is done to remove the scar tissue and adhesions from the shoulder joint. This procedure may be performed arthroscopically, making small incisions around the joint.

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