Did you know that frozen shoulder syndrome affects between 2% to 5% of the American population? The symptoms of this debilitating disorder start slowly, and you’ll feel a dull pain in your shoulder, followed by stiffness.
Frozen shoulder syndrome progresses through three stages, with symptoms lasting up to three years that can profoundly impact your life.
Are you ready to learn more about this painful syndrome and its causes and treatment options? Well, you’re in the right place! In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about frozen shoulder syndrome and how you can find relief.
What Is Frozen Shoulder Syndrome?
Your shoulder consists of three bones that make up the ball and socket joint. These bones are your upper arm, collarbone, and shoulder blade. The tissue around your shoulder joint that keeps everything together is known as the shoulder capsule.
The capsule gets thick, stiff, and tight with frozen shoulder syndrome, making it difficult to move. Most people notice pain before stiffness, and it usually affects the dominant shoulder but can occur in either one. Bilateral frozen shoulder syndrome, which is when both shoulders are involved, occurs in about 14% of people.
Stages of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
Frozen shoulder syndrome is classified into three stages that gradually worsen then slowly resolve over two or three years. These stages include:
- The freezing and painful stage where pain increases gradually
- The frozen stage leads to a decrease of pain, but the shoulder remains stiff
- The thawing stage is when movement becomes easier, and the pain fades away
Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
The symptoms of frozen shoulder syndrome depend on what stage you’re in and progress very slowly over 2 to 3 years. You’ll likely first notice a dull aching pain in one shoulder around the muscles towards the top of your arm. The pain worsens when you sleep at night, making it difficult to sleep and lie on your side. During the initial freezing stage, you’ll notice:
- Severe pain in your shoulder with movement
- It slowly gets worse day by day
- Movement is limited
- This stage lasts up to 9 months
During the frozen stage, symptoms include:
- Less pain but increased stiffness
- The movement of your shoulder is tough, making it hard to do your daily activities
- This challenging stage lasts from 4 to 12 months
Once you get into the thawing stage, the pain goes, and your movement slowly returns. This final stage can last from 6 months to 3 years.
How Do You Get Frozen Shoulder Syndrome?
Frozen shoulder syndrome occurs when scar tissue forms in the shoulder, causing the joint to tighten and become stiff and painful.
The exact cause isn’t known, but many people with frozen shoulder syndrome have experienced shoulder immobility due to an injury or fracture. Frozen shoulder syndrome is also common in people with diabetes.
Risk Factors for Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
Did you know that gender and certain health conditions increase your chances of getting frozen shoulder syndrome? These risks you can watch out for include:
- Being older than 40
- Being a women
- Recent surgery or trauma to the shoulder
- Being diabetic
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Thyroid conditions
- History of a stroke
Interestingly, having diabetes increases your risk of developing frozen shoulder syndrome by up to 20%, but the reasons aren’t clear.
Diagnosis of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
Your doctor can diagnose frozen shoulder syndrome based on the symptoms you’re experiencing, along with a physical examination. The severity of frozen shoulder syndrome is determined by a test where your doctor will move specific parts of your arm and shoulder.
Your doctor will first check your active motion by how much you can move your shoulder by yourself and check passive motion by moving it for you. You may need a numbing injection for this exam, depending on how severe your pain is.
Usually, a physical exam alone can diagnose a frozen shoulder. Still, imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs can be ordered to detect any structural problems like a rotator cuff tear or arthritis.
Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and restore flexibility and mobility. Recovery is slow, and symptoms can continue for years, but in time most people experience relief. It’s best to see a doctor who specializes in treating injuries and pain management so you can get the comprehensive care you need.
Treatment options for frozen shoulder syndrome include:
Taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can decrease inflammation, and prescription painkillers can relieve more severe pain. Corticosteroid injections can be helpful on a limited basis, but repeated injections can cause more damage to the shoulder.
Hot and cold compression packs are great for reducing pain and swelling. The best thing to do is alternate between both, and you can easily find packs online for both hot and cold therapy.
Physical therapy exercises can help maintain mobility and flexibility without causing too much pain. Therapy sessions often include the use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). A TENS machine sends tiny impulses via electrodes applied to the skin that numb the nerve endings.
Chiropractic treatment and manipulation that focuses on your cervical and thoracic spine can help improve mobility. Acupuncture for frozen shoulder syndrome is helpful because it reduces inflammation, ultimately reducing the pain and stiffness caused by this syndrome.
Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
If you suffer from frozen shoulder syndrome or have painful symptoms, reach out to Momentum Medical. We are a team of injury doctors that are compassionate towards your pain and suffering.
Even though frozen shoulder syndrome can last for years, the right treatments help you get back on track and start getting your life back.