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Frozen Shoulder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Frozen shoulder, medically known as adhesive capsulitis, is a painful and restrictive condition that affects many individuals. It typically develops gradually, causing stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for frozen shoulder.


Frozen shoulder occurs when the connective tissues surrounding the shoulder joint become inflamed and thickened. While the exact cause is not always clear, several factors can contribute to its development. These include:

1. Age and Gender: Individuals over the age of 40, especially women, are more susceptible to frozen shoulder.

2. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and thyroid disorders, are associated with an increased risk of developing frozen shoulder.

3. Injury or Surgery: Shoulder injuries or surgeries can lead to prolonged immobility, increasing the risk of developing this condition.


The hallmark symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain and restricted shoulder movement. The condition typically progresses through three stages:

1. Freezing Stage: During this stage, individuals experience increasing pain and a gradual loss of shoulder movement. This stage can last anywhere from 6 weeks to 9 months.

2. Frozen Stage: In this stage, the pain may begin to diminish, but the shoulder becomes increasingly stiff. Daily activities become challenging, and the range of motion is severely limited. This stage can last 4-6 months.

3. Thawing Stage: The final stage involves a gradual improvement in shoulder mobility and a reduction in pain. Full recovery may take several months to a few years.

Treatment Options:

The treatment of frozen shoulder aims to relieve pain and restore shoulder mobility. Here are some common treatment options:

1. Physical Therapy: Physical therapists can design exercises and stretches to improve shoulder mobility and reduce pain. Regular, guided exercises are crucial in managing the condition.

2. Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.

3. Heat and Ice: Applying heat and ice alternately can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

4. Home Exercises: Patients are often advised to perform daily exercises at home to maintain and improve shoulder mobility.

5. Invasive Procedures: In some cases, if conservative treatments are not effective, doctors may recommend procedures such as joint distension (injecting sterile water into the joint capsule) or manipulation under anesthesia to break up adhesions.

6. Surgery: Surgical intervention is usually considered a last resort. If other treatments fail, surgical procedures like arthroscopy or capsular release may be performed to release the tightened joint capsule.


While it may not always be preventable, there are steps individuals can take to reduce their risk of developing frozen shoulder. These include:

- Managing underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.

- Avoiding prolonged immobilization of the shoulder after injury or surgery.

- Practicing regular shoulder exercises to maintain joint mobility.

In conclusion, frozen shoulder is a painful and debilitating condition that affects many individuals, particularly those over 40 and individuals with certain medical conditions. Early diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan, which may include physical therapy, medications, and in some cases, surgery, can help individuals regain shoulder mobility and alleviate pain. It's crucial to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options if you suspect you have frozen shoulder.

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