Diseases and Disorders

What Causes Frozen Shoulder? 4 Stages Frozen Shoulder

Last updated on January 21st, 2023 at 12:13 pm

A frozen shoulder is an injury that occurs when the tendons on the top of your arm are injured or torn. Learn what causes a frozen shoulder and four stages of frozen shoulder.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Adhesive capsulitis is the medical term for a frozen shoulder, which can be caused because of a variety of reasons. Scar tissues can grow in the shoulder joint when they said joint becomes thicker. This development keeps the shoulder from rotating normally, which can lead to a frozen shoulder. The most common symptoms of this condition include severe pain and stiffness, and inflammation. Here are the causes and ways to treat this condition.

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

A frozen shoulder can be caused because of a sports injury and an accident. Also, a hormonal imbalance can cause this condition. A weak immune system may cause inflammation in various joints of the body, which makes motion difficult. Also, diabetes can give rise to a frozen shoulder as a side effect. If you have a sedentary lifestyle and do not exercise often enough, or have just been through surgery, which has led to a prolonged period of inactivity, then you can be prone to this condition. Surgery will also leave your tissue and adhesions sensitive to inflammation. Scar tissue may end up forming in very extreme cases over a period of at least nine months. This can limit your motion.

What are the symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

The major symptoms of a frozen shoulder are pain and stiffness that make it difficult or impossible to move it. If you have a frozen shoulder, you’ll likely feel a dull or achy pain in one shoulder. You might also feel the pain in the shoulder muscles that wrap around the top of your arm. You might feel the same sensation in your upper arm. Your pain could get worse at night, which can make it hard to sleep.

4 Stages of Frozen Shoulder

You’ll typically go through three phases with a frozen shoulder. Each has its own unique symptoms and timeline.

Freezing Stage
  • You develop a pain (sometimes severe) in your shoulder any time you move it.
  • It slowly gets worse over time and may hurt more at night.
  • This can last anywhere from 6 to 9 months.
  • You’re limited in how far you can move your shoulder.
Frozen Stage
  • Your pain might get better, but your stiffness gets worse.
  • Moving your shoulder becomes more difficult, and it becomes harder to get through daily activities.
  • This stage can last 4-12 months.
Thawing Stage
  • Your range of motion goes back to normal.
  • This can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

Risk Factors Of Frozen Shoulder

Besides diabetes, hormonal changes and inactivity, people who have been through a stroke or surgery are most susceptible to this condition. Also, patients who are suffering from thyroid disorders can end up developing a frozen shoulder too.

How one can diagnose frozen shoulder?

To diagnose frozen shoulder, your doctor will give you a physical exam. He / She’ll check it to see how badly it hurts and how far it moves. During the “active” part of the exam, she’ll let you move your shoulder on your own. During the “passive” portion, she’ll move it for you and note the differences.

Your doctor may decide you need an injection of anesthetic on your shoulder. This is a medication that will numb the pain so that she can better judge your active and passive ranges of motion. A physical exam is usually enough to diagnose frozen shoulder, but your doctor may also order imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI to rule out other problems like arthritis or a torn rotator cuff that can also cause pain and limit how far it moves.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment

  • Physical Therapy: One of the most recommended ways to deal with this condition is physical therapy. This kind of therapy will help you in stretching your shoulder so that you get back some motion over a period. This process can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, depending on the severity of your condition. You must ask your doctor about other treatment options if this kind of therapy does not show results even after six months of intense and regular practice. Physical therapy can also be practiced at home once you have learned the technique from a physiotherapist.
  • Medication: One of the other ways to deal with a frozen shoulder is with the help of medication. Anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medicines can soothe the discomfort. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, as well as naproxen sodium. Also, if you are undergoing a lot of pain, the doctor can administer a steroid injection in the shoulder joint.
  • Surgery: If medication and physical therapy do not help in treating the condition effectively, then one can go in for an arthroscopic surgery to remove the scar tissue with a small incision and other kinds of surgery for breaking the adhesions as well.

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