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Frozen shoulder – symptoms, causes and other risk factors

Frozen shoulder

This kind of condition is also known as adhesive capsulitis. When you have frozen shoulder, then you feel pain and stiffness in your shoulder joint. This can affect your everyday life. Also there are some cases when people who are diagnosed with this disease cannot move their shoulder at all. In some cases it can improve in some period but usually it takes several years to be better. The signs and symptoms of this disease are beginning step by step. They can resolve in some period while in other cases they can worsen. Usually they last from one to three years. If you are recovering from a procedure or medical condition that are not giving your arm to move such as mastectomy or stroke, then you have increased chances of getting frozen shoulder [1]. In some cases this condition needs numbing medications which are injected in your joint capsule and corticosteroids while in other cases we need to do many motion exercises. Also there are some cases when we must do arthroscopic surgery which is done to loosen your joint capsule. This means that you can move your arm more freely.  It is not very common situation to occur this condition in the same shoulder. There are some people who have frozen shoulder in the opposite shoulder. [2]

Symptoms: When someone is affected by this disease, then it is developing slowly and it develops in 3 stages. There are different numbers of months how much can last every stage of this developing process.

  • Freezing stage: When you are moving your shoulder, then you notice pain in every motion. You cannot move your shoulder as you want. You have a limit of your moves.
  • Frozen stage: When your frozen shoulder is in this stage, then you notice a pain more than before. When you are in this stage, then your shoulder is stiffer which means that you have difficulties when you are moving it.
  • Thawing stage: In this stage of the frozen shoulder the range of motion in your shoulder is improved.

There are some cases when people cannot stand with this pain because it is worsening at night and they cannot sleep well. If you have noticed some of the mentioned symptoms, then you must visit your doctor and talk about your disease. He or she may refer you to some doctor who has specialized in orthopedic medicine. You should tell your doctor everything that you feel. You should not forget any symptom that you feel because in this way your doctor can make some mistake in diagnosing your disease. Also you should tell your doctor if you had some diseases  in your past or diseases who had your parents.

Causes of frozen shoulder

The tendons, ligaments and the bones are making your shoulder. They are all encased in one capsule which is part of the connective tissue. When this capsule tightens and thickens around your shoulder joint which is restricting the movement of your shoulder, then we get frozen shoulder. There are many cases of frozen shoulder and doctors are not sure why this condition has affected some people. This disease is affecting people who suffer from diabetes at most. Also people who had to immobilize their shoulder for a long period which can be caused by arm fracture or surgery are having increased chances of getting frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder

Risk factors: There are some factors which can increase your risk of getting frozen shoulder:

  • Age and sex: Women are having increased risk of getting frozen shoulder. Also people who 40 years or older are are having bigger chances to get this disease. [3]
  • Immobility or reduced mobility: People who have reduced mobility of their shoulder or who have prolonged immobility of their shoulder are having increased risk of getting frozen shoulder. There are many factors which can lead to immobility such as stroke, rotator cuff injury and recovery from surgery or broken arm. [4]
  • Systemic disease: People who suffer from some kinds of diseases are having increased chances of getting frozen shoulder. Diseases which can increase the chances of getting frozen shoulder are Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, tuberculosis, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), cardiovascular disease and underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). [5]

These are some conditions of Frozen shoulder.


[1] Crosbie J, Kilbreath SL, Dylke E, et al. Effects of mastectomy on shoulder and spinal kinematics during bilateral upper-limb movement. Physical Therapy. 2010;90(5):679-92.

[2] Sharma S, Jacobs L. Management of frozen shoulder – conservative vs surgical? Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 2011;93(5):343.

[3] Jones S, Hanchard N, Hamilton S, Rangan A. A qualitative study of patients’ perceptions and priorities when living with primary frozen shoulder. BMJ Open. 2013;3:e003452.

[4] Kim DH, Lee KH, Lho YM, et al. Characterization of a frozen shoulder model using immobilization in rats. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research. 2016.

[5] Ryan V, Brown H, Minns Lowe CJ, Lewis JS. The pathophysiology associated with primary (idiopathic) frozen shoulder: A systematic review. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2016;17:340.

Hanan Marshal
Hanan Marshal
Hanan, a medical student (MBBS) having passion for writing and is very much interested in holistic living along with nature. He is very much interested in doing community service and watches anime and play PS4 during his free time. You can reach him through [email protected]


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