Understanding Frozen Shoulder



Frozen shoulder got its name from the worst effect this condition presents, that is, the shoulder being completely unable to move, or frozen. It is sometimes called by the term adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder. In most cases, it causes the shoulder to become painful and stiff and the movements to become reduced.

About 3 percent of adults will have frozen shoulder some time in their lives. People mostly affected are those aged 40 to 65 years. More women are affected by it. It is also observed that there are more people who have conditions like diabetes and overactive thyroid disease who become affected by frozen shoulder than average people.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

The severity of the symptoms of frozen shoulder varies per individual. The more severe conditions can interfere with your daily tasks such as wearing clothes, driving and sleeping. Scratching your back and reaching for your rear pocket may be impossible at times. The length of time of the symptoms varies also. On average, symptoms of frozen shoulder usually go away after two to three years even without treatment. It is much less than this in some cases and a few more years in a minority of cases.

Either the left or right shoulder can be affected but it is observed that it is more commonly the non-dominant shoulder that gets affected. In about 20 percent of the cases, the symptom also develops in the other shoulder at some point.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

It has been confirmed that frozen shoulder is not a form of arthritis or inflammation of the joints, nor does it affect other joints. What causes frozen shoulder then?

Though there is no clear cause, it is believed that scar-like tissue forming in the shoulder capsule is the culprit. The capsule is a thin tissue covering the shoulder joint. It is thought that the scar tissue may cause the capsule to thicken and limit the shoulder movement. Why the scar tissue forms in the first place is also not known.

Treatment Options

There are various treatment methods available to ease the pain and bring the range of movement of the affected shoulder to its best possible level. These treatment methods are solutions while waiting for the condition to clear:

  • Over-the-counter painkillers – Paracetamol may be tried first to control the pain or a stronger painkiller, when necessary.
  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers – Ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac are common examples. They ease the pain and reduce inflammation in your shoulder.
  • Exercises for the shoulder – Shoulder exercises are done to keep the shoulder from stiffening and maximize the shoulder’s range of movement.
  • Physiotherapy – Advise on the best exercises for the condition may come from a physiotherapist, who may also try other non-exercise pain-relieving techniques.
  • Steroid injection – A steroid shot into the shoulder can relieve the pain and reduce inflammation for a longer time than oral medications. The relief can last a few week in some cases.
  • Surgery – When other treatment options do not help, surgery may be turned to. Surgery may have a good rate of success but it is not a guaranteed solution for all cases.
  • Chiropractic care – Relief from the condition after a course of chiropractic adjustments have been reported. The treatments concentrated on manipulating the frozen shoulder joint and the surrounding areas, including the base of the neck.

Frozen shoulder may take a long time to heal, but people with the condition welcome good relief of symptoms for a period of time and consider any improvement a significant enhancement to their quality of life.