What is frozen shoulder?

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A frozen shoulder involves pain and rigidity of the shoulder. This is also called as adhesive capsulitis. In most circumstances, the symptoms tend to worsen gradually over a number of months or years.

The individual will experience shoulder pain for the first 2-9 months that can be severe and then followed by increasing stiffness. The stiffness can also affect the ability to perform daily activities. In severe cases, the individual might not be able to move the shoulder at all. The condition can improve over time, but this usually takes several years.

When to consult a doctor

A doctor should be consulted if the individual experiences persistent shoulder pain that disrupts normal movement. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the more likely that treatment can help prevent long-term stiffness and pain.

Causes of frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder
The individual will experience shoulder pain for the first 2-9 months that can be severe and then followed by increasing stiffness.

Always bear in mind that frozen shoulder develops when the flexible tissue surrounding the shoulder joint or capsule becomes inflamed and thick. Even today, it is not fully understood why this occurs.

Certain factors that increase the risk for developing frozen shoulder include a previous injury or surgery to the shoulder, diabetes, Dupuytren’s contracture and other health conditions such as stroke or heart disease.

Most individuals who develop frozen shoulder are usually in between 40-60 years old. In addition, the condition is quite common in women than men.

Testing and diagnosis

During a physical exam, the doctor will instruct the individual to move in certain ways to assess for pain and the range of motion. The individual is also instructed to relax the muscles while the arm is being moved. Take note that frozen shoulder affects both passive and active range of motion.

In some cases, the doctor might inject the affected shoulder with an anesthetic in order to determine the passive and active range of motion. Always bear in mind that frozen shoulder is usually diagnosed based on the signs and symptoms alone. In some cases, the doctor might recommend imaging tests such as MRI or X-ray to rule out other possible health issues.


Many individuals who have frozen shoulder eventually get better even without treatment. Nevertheless, proper treatment can help minimize the pain as well as improve the movement in the shoulder until it fully heals.

The form of treatment given depends on the severity of the frozen shoulder and how far it has progressed. Pain medications, shoulder exercises, corticosteroid injections and physical therapy are possible treatments. In case the symptoms do not seem to improve after 6 months, surgery might be recommended by the doctor.

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