Frozen Shoulder

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a painful and debilitating condition that affects the shoulder joint, resulting in stiffness, limited range of motion, and intense discomfort. This condition can be a source of frustration and decreased quality of life for those who suffer from it, as it can significantly impact their ability to perform everyday tasks and even affect their sleep.

Frozen shoulder typically progresses through three distinct stages, with each stage characterized by specific symptoms and duration.

  1. Stage 1: Freezing Stage: During this stage, which can last from 6 weeks to 9 months, patients may begin to experience pain and stiffness in their shoulder, which gradually worsens over time. This discomfort often starts mildly and progressively intensifies, particularly at night. Individuals might find it challenging to perform tasks that involve reaching overhead or behind their back.
  2. Stage 2: Frozen Stage: This stage can last anywhere from 4 to 6 months, during which pain may become less intense, but the stiffness in the shoulder increases significantly. The shoulder joint’s capsule, which is a membrane that surrounds and supports the joint, becomes thickened and tight, limiting the range of motion. Simple activities like reaching for objects, putting on clothes, or even lifting the arm can become extremely difficult or nearly impossible.
  3. Stage 3: Thawing Stage: In this stage, the shoulder gradually begins to improve. This stage can last from 6 months to 2 years. The pain subsides, and the range of motion slowly returns, although it may not fully recover to its original state. The process of recovery can be slow, and some individuals may continue to experience mild discomfort or stiffness even after the shoulder starts to thaw.

If you have a question about whether your condition should be treated by one of our hand therapists, call Restored Hope Hand Therapy at (928) 275-2201.

Risk Factors & Causes

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not fully understood, but it is often associated with certain risk factors such as age (typically occurring between the ages of 40 and 60), gender (more common in women), and certain medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders, or heart disease.

A few possible causes are as follows:

  • Results from surgery or injury.
  • Underlying conditions such as bursitis, tendonitis, arthritis, a rotator cuff tear, or any other condition causing a person to cease shoulder movement.
  • Immobilization of the arm, such as in a sling, after surgery or fracture.

Overall, having a limited range of motion can cause you to develop a frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulders can also be the result of remaining bedridden, unable to get up and move around for a long time.

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of frozen shoulder are typically progressive, often beginning mildly and aggravating over time. They primarily include:

  • Pain: Initially, one may experience a dull or aching pain in the outer shoulder area or the upper arm.
  • Stiffness: The shoulder becomes severely stiff, impeding its mobility.
  • Limited movement: Over time, the shoulder’s range of motion diminishes, making it challenging to perform everyday tasks.
Rotator cuff repair after surgery (3D model)

Treatment Options

Managing frozen shoulder involves a combination of medical interventions and self-care strategies. These may include:

  1. Physical/Occupational Therapy: A therapist at Restored Hope Hand Therapy can teach exercises and techniques to improve shoulder mobility and reduce pain. They may also use modalities like heat and ice to alleviate symptoms.
  2. Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections may be prescribed to manage pain and inflammation.
  3. Home Exercises: Patients are often encouraged to perform specific exercises at home to maintain shoulder mobility and prevent further stiffness.
  4. Heat and Ice: Applying heat and ice to the affected shoulder can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  5. Manual Manipulation: In some cases, a healthcare provider may perform manual manipulation of the shoulder joint to break up adhesions and improve range of motion.
  6. Surgical Options: In severe cases where conservative treatments have failed, surgical procedures like manipulation under anesthesia or arthroscopic release may be considered to release the tightened capsule.

How Can We Help?

At the moment there isn’t very much we can do to prevent the development of frozen shoulder, however, the sooner you contact our office for an evaluation, the quicker we can address your pain symptoms and create your treatment plan!

Therapy for frozen shoulders focuses primarily on pain relief, using modalities, manual therapy, exercises, and at-home treatments. Your hand therapist’s ultimate goal is to restore mobility and range of motion to the affected shoulder and to help you be able to do the things you normally do on a daily basis without pain.

We will teach you how to relieve pain with stretching techniques and strengthening exercises, most of which you’ll be able to complete at home to speed up the recovery process.

Typically, we recommend that patients with frozen shoulders rest often in between appointments to avoid developing scar tissue in the shoulder. On the chance that scar tissue does develop, the muscles surrounding the shoulder may eventually freeze up as well.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Don’t let shoulder pain or injury keep you in a bind. Reach out to Restored Hope Hand Therapy today and take a decisive step towards reclaiming your life from the clutches of shoulder pain. We are well-equipped to provide the support and professional guidance necessary for a successful rehabilitation journey. Call us today to schedule an appointment and embark on the path to recovery.

Shoulder Therapy Options

At Restored Hope, we will help you to maximize your recovery and develop
individualized-specific therapy programs to offer you the best possible results.
Contact us today to learn about available treatment options.


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