Have you been feeling a little stiff in the shoulder? Adhesive Capsulitis, known commonly as frozen shoulder, is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the affected shoulder. Occurring more frequently in women than men, it is estimated to affect approximately 2% of the population, with the majority of the affected patients ranging in age from 40-60 years old. Hence the name, many patients with frozen shoulders have difficulty moving the shoulder at all as the condition progresses.

The cause of frozen shoulder is not fully understood. While this condition can occur after an injury, in most cases, there is no trauma prior to the onset of a frozen shoulder. While it may not have anything to do with the weather, our team at South Shore Orthopedics is prepared to help you treat this condition this winter. 

How Frozen Shoulders Occurs

In order to understand how a frozen shoulder occurs, you must first have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the shoulder. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that is made up of the following three bones:

  • Upper arm bone (humerus)
  • Shoulder blade (scapula)
  • Collarbone (clavicle)

The head of the humerus fits into a socket in the shoulder blade. The shoulder capsule, which is a strong connective tissue, surrounds the shoulder joint and rotator cuff tendons. When a frozen shoulder occurs, the shoulder capsule becomes inflamed and tight due to thickening, developing stiff bands of tissue known as adhesions. This then promotes the feeling of pain that comes with the condition. 

3 Stages of Frozen Shoulder

This condition tends to develop in 3 stages, freezing, frozen, and thawing. While they are connected, the steps come with their unique characteristics that are important to identify. Each of the three stages is explained below:

1. Freezing

This is the first stage of a frozen shoulder usually begins with a slow increase in pain. This process can last anywhere from six weeks to nine months. As the pain intensifies, the shoulder loses range of motion. You may start to notice a change now, but it might not be evident that this is a sign of a further issue. 

2. Frozen 

During this second stage, the stiffness of the shoulder remains, yet painful symptoms may show improvement. This stage may last anywhere from four to six months. This is often a preferred time for the condition, but it can improve further by talking to a professional about treatment methods. 

3. Thawing  

The final stage in a frozen shoulder is known as thawing. During this stage, the shoulder motion slowly improves. It may take anywhere from six months to two years for the shoulder to return to normal. Over this time, it is essential to stick to the treatment plan that the professional sets out for your specific situation. 

Signs Of Frozen Shoulder

The telltale sign of a frozen shoulder is the inability to move the shoulder either on your own or with assistance. The pain associated with this condition can be both dull or aching and usually located over the front of the shoulder and sometimes the upper arm. Pain tends to worsen early in the course of the disease, during the freezing stage, and with the movement of the arm. The pain may cause sleep interruption.

Does this sound familiar? If you believe you are suffering from one of the 3 stages of a frozen shoulder, schedule an appointment with one of South Shore Orthopedics’ shoulder experts today. The quicker you confront the problem, the sooner you can start to feel relief. Learn more about shoulder pain and shoulder repair on our website. We look forward to hearing from you.