What Is a Frozen Shoulder?
A frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is an extremely painful condition where the shoulder becomes limited from its normal range of motion. It happens when the lining or capsule of the shoulder becomes tight, causing severe shooting pains when moving your arm. The shoulder eventually “freezes” and becomes immobile for weeks, months, or even years. It remains one of the most mysterious and spontaneous conditions in the medical field, as it can literally develop overnight.
Common Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
The common symptoms of a frozen shoulder are divided into the following 3 stages.
- Freezing Stage – During this stage, the shoulder is clearly painful, and you’ll notice beginning signs of stiffening and tightening. The pain will gradually increase and may worsen at night. This stage may last 6 weeks to 9 months.
- Frozen Stage – In this stage, pain may lessen but the shoulder will remain stiff and “freeze” up, making daily activities much more difficult. This stage can last anywhere from 2 to 6 months.
- Thawing Stage – The pain will also lessen during this stage, and the ability to move the shoulder slowly improves. This stage can last 6 months to 2 years.
Signs of Frozen Shoulder
The most common cause of a frozen shoulder is trauma or a blow to the shoulder. It can also affect people who are not injured but carry specific diseases and conditions that contribute to it. For example, patients who are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus are 10 to 20% more likely to develop frozen shoulder.
The risks of frozen shoulder are higher among patients with:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Immobilization in other areas
- History of stroke
- Diseases that affect the thyroid gland
Diagnosing Frozen Shoulder
A frozen shoulder can only be diagnosed by a medical professional and is determined after a thorough shoulder examination. The condition is widely confused with another similar condition, rotator cuff injury, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis by a licensed specialist. Additionally, treatment and recovery time will ultimately depend on how severe your pain is, and if you have a medical history with conditions that further complicate a frozen shoulder.
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