Frozen shoulder is a relatively common but somewhat mysterious problem. Experts estimate that 2-5% of the general population will have frozen shoulder, but they aren’t sure why some people get it and others don’t. Some things appear to raise your risk, including:
Additionally, if you’ve had frozen shoulder on one side, you’re more likely to get it on the other. Read on to learn about the three stages of frozen shoulder and how to warm it up.
Your shoulder joint is made up of three bones: the collarbone, shoulder blade, and upper arm bone. They’re all encased in and protected by tissue called the shoulder capsule, and everything is lubricated with a substance known as synovial fluid.
When you have frozen shoulder, the capsule becomes tighter, bands of scar tissue development and synovial fluid decreases. All of those factors make it difficult for your shoulder joint to move as it should. While it doesn’t freeze in one place, it does become stiff, and your mobility becomes limited.
As the shoulder capsule becomes tighter, you’ll probably feel a dull ache or deep pain in your shoulder that could be worse at night. You may notice that moving your arm is more difficult. This is the freezing stage.
Once the shoulder capsule is tight and banded with scar tissue, you’ll probably feel less pain, but more stiffness. This is the frozen stage.
Finally, you’ll begin to regain some mobility, and feel less pain. At this point, you’ve entered the thawing stage.
This whole process can take anywhere from 1-3 years, and it’s during the thawing stage that you may find it helpful to do stretches and exercises to help warm up your frozen shoulder.
During the freezing stage, Dr. Ngu may suggest over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications. In some cases, steroid injections may be helpful. The best and most effective treatment plan for you depends on many individual factors that you can discuss with Dr. Ngu.
Once your shoulder is frozen, you probably won’t need pain relievers because typically men and women have far less pain during this stage. Depending on your medical situation, arthroscopic surgery could be helpful in loosening your shoulder. Surgery for frozen shoulder is relatively rare, and when it’s done, it’s usually performed through tiny incisions.
In the thawing stage, Dr. Ngu may refer you to physical therapy or teach you some simple stretches and exercises to help you regain mobility and strength as your shoulder heals. Once you’ve had frozen shoulder, it’s improbable that you’ll get it again in the same shoulder, but 6-17% of people get it in the other shoulder within five years.
If you’re feeling pain or stiffness in your shoulder, book an appointment online or by phone at Premier Spine Institute for a consultation. Bursitis and arthritis can also cause shoulder pain, so it’s essential to have an evaluation so that Dr. Ngu can rule out other factors and discuss a treatment plan.