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Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis. It is a painful condition that affects movement of the shoulder. Pain and persistent stiffness in the shoulder joint are the two main symptoms of a frozen shoulder.

In frozen shoulder, bands of scar tissue form inside the shoulder capsule, causing it to thicken, swell and tighten. This means there is less space for your upper arm bone in the joint, which limits movements.

It is not fully understood why frozen shoulder occurs and, in some cases, it is not possible to identify a cause. However, a number of things can increase your risk of developing it such as:

Previous shoulder injury or surgery:

  • Muscle strain
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis/tendinopathy
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • A fall on the shoulder
  • Acromio-clavicular joint sprain
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Fracture
  • Calcific tendonitis

Other health conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Dupuytren's contracture hand
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Breast cancer

Stages of frozen shoulder
The symptoms of a frozen shoulder usually progress gradually over a number of months or years. There are three separate stages to the condition which can sometimes be difficult to distinguish. The symptoms may also vary greatly from person to person.

Stage one
During stage one, often referred to as the 'freezing' phase, your shoulder will start to ache and become very painful when reaching. The pain is often worse at night and when you lie on the affected side.

Stage two
Stage two is often known as the 'frozen' phase. Your shoulder may become increasingly stiff, but the pain does not usually get worse and may decrease. Your shoulder muscles may start to waste away slightly because they are not being used.

Stage three
Stage three is the 'thawing' phase. During this period, you will gradually regain some movement in your shoulder. The pain will begin to fade, although it may recur from time to time as the stiffness eases. Although you may not regain full movement of your shoulder, you will be able to carry out many more tasks.

* The contents of this condition is for information purposes only.