Frozen Shoulder: What You Need to Know and How to Treat It

July 24, 2023Kolton Opdahl
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)Regenerative MedicineShoulder Pain

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. It occurs when the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint becomes thick and tight, limiting its mobility. Frozen shoulder can be caused by a variety of factors, including rotator cuff injury, rotator cuff tear, and shoulder impingement. In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for frozen shoulder.

Understanding the Shoulder

To understand frozen shoulder, it’s important to first understand the anatomy of the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is made up of three bones. There is the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone). The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that attach the shoulder blade to the humerus and help to stabilize the joint.

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body, allowing for a wide range of motion. However, this mobility also makes it vulnerable to injury and damage.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder can occur in people of all ages, but it is more common in people over 40 years old. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of frozen shoulder, including:

  • Idiopathic Frozen Shoulder: This is the most common form of frozen shoulder and occurs for no apparent reason. It often affects people between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Rotator Cuff Injury: A rotator cuff injury can cause inflammation and swelling in the shoulder joint, leading to frozen shoulder.
  • Rotator Cuff Tear: A rotator cuff tear can also lead to frozen shoulder, as the inflammation and swelling can cause the joint to become stiff and painful.
  • Shoulder Impingement: Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become pinched between the bones of the shoulder joint, causing pain and inflammation.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

The symptoms of frozen shoulder typically develop slowly over time and can be divided into three stages:

  • Freezing Stage: This stage is characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. The pain may be more severe at night and can make it difficult to sleep. The shoulder may also become less mobile during this stage.
  • Frozen Stage: During this stage, the pain may decrease, but the shoulder becomes even more stiff and immobile. It may be difficult to perform simple tasks like brushing your hair or reaching for something on a high shelf.
  • Thawing Stage: In the final stage, the shoulder begins to regain mobility and the pain decreases. However, it may take several months or even years for the shoulder to fully recover.

Diagnosis of Frozen Shoulder

If you’re experiencing pain and stiffness in your shoulder, it’s important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination of your shoulder to assess your range of motion and any pain or tenderness. Imaging tests like X-rays or MRI may also be used to rule out other conditions like a rotator cuff tear.

In some cases, a doctor may perform arthroscopy to view the inside of the shoulder joint and make a definitive diagnosis.

frozen shoulder

Treatment of Frozen Shoulder

The treatment for frozen shoulder typically involves a combination of physical therapy, medications, and in some cases, surgery. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and increase mobility in the shoulder joint.

  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises can help to improve range of motion and reduce stiffness in the shoulder joint. Your physical therapist may also use techniques like massage or ultrasound therapy to help improve circulation and reduce pain.
  • Medications: Over-the counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to reduce pain and inflammation associated with frozen shoulder. In some cases, your doctor may also recommend corticosteroid injections to help reduce inflammation and improve mobility.
  • Surgery: In severe cases of frozen shoulder, surgery may be necessary to release the tightness in the shoulder joint. This is known as a shoulder manipulation, and involves the surgeon moving the arm to break up the scar tissue and adhesions that are limiting mobility. Another surgical option is arthroscopic capsular release, which involves cutting the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint to improve mobility.
  • Stem cell Therapy: This involves using the body’s own stem cells to promote tissue repair and regeneration. Stem cells have the ability to differentiate into different types of cells, including those that make up muscle, bone, and connective tissue. By injecting stem cells into the affected shoulder joint, doctors can stimulate the growth of new tissue and promote healing.
  • PRP Therapy: This involves injecting a concentration of platelets, growth factors, and other healing substances into the affected shoulder joint. These substances can help to reduce inflammation, promote tissue repair, and improve blood flow to the area, which can help to alleviate pain and improve mobility.

Home Remedies for Frozen Shoulder

In addition to medical treatment, there are also several home remedies that can help to manage the symptoms:

  • Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying a hot or cold compress to the shoulder joint can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Rest and Relaxation: It’s important to rest the affected shoulder and avoid activities that cause pain or discomfort.
  • Stretching Exercises: Gentle stretching exercises can help to improve range of motion and reduce stiffness in the shoulder joint.

Preventing Frozen Shoulder

While it may not be possible to prevent frozen shoulder entirely, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise can help to improve strength and flexibility in the shoulder joint, reducing the risk of injury and damage.
  • Maintain Proper Posture: Poor posture can put strain on the shoulders and increase the risk of injury. Make sure to sit and stand up straight and avoid hunching over.
  • Avoid Repetitive Activities: Repetitive activities like lifting heavy objects or typing on a keyboard for long periods of time can increase the risk of shoulder injury. Take frequent breaks and switch up your activities to avoid strain on the shoulders.

Frozen shoulder can be a painful and frustrating condition. However, with proper treatment and care, it is possible to manage the symptoms and regain mobility in the shoulder joint. If you’re experiencing pain and stiffness in your shoulder, it’s important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. With a the correct personalized treatment plan you can reduce pain and improve mobility in the shoulder joint. By taking steps to prevent shoulder injury and damage, you can reduce your risk of developing frozen shoulder and maintain the health and mobility of your shoulder joint.

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