Frozen Shoulder

Understanding the Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Understanding Frozen Shoulder

The shoulder is a complex, highly mobile joint designed to provide the highest amount of motion of any joint in the body. It is a ball and socket joint surrounded by a variety of ligaments, tendons, and muscles that are responsible for moving the arm. Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition in which the capsule of the shoulder joint becomes more rigid an inflamed. This causes severe limits in the range of motion and pain when trying to move the shoulder joint.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

We are not entirely sure why frozen shoulder happens to certain people, but something triggers the connective tissue and capsule around the shoulder joint to thicken and get inflamed, tightening the shoulder joint

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder usually develops slowly and in three stages, each lasting for several weeks to months if untreated.

  1. Freezing stage: Any movement of the shoulder causes pain and the range of motion starts to become limited
  2. Frozen stage: Pain starts to go away, but the shoulder becomes much stiffer and using it is more difficult
  3. Thawing stage: The pain is gone and range of motion slowly improves

Diagnosing Frozen Shoulder

A comprehensive history and physical examination is the most important piece to determine if the rotator cuff is involved in your shoulder pain. X-ray, MRI, and/or ultrasound are imaging modalities that allow us to see the rotator cuff and surround tissues.

Treatment Options

  • Prevention- Try and have a work-out routine that incorporates maintaining shoulder range of motion
  • Physical Therapy – To help stretch the shoulder in multiple planes and develop a home program to reduce pain and improve function
  • Medications – Usually NSAIDs or Tylenol short-term to help control symptoms while going through a PT program

Our Doctors that Treat Frozen Shoulder

Dr. Niteesh Bharara

Director of Regenerative Medicine
Orthopedic Specialist - Non-Surgical Sports Medicine

Learn about available treatment options.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Niteesh Bharara, MD.

Reviewed by: Dr. Niteesh Bharara, MD.