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What is a Frozen Shoulder?

Woman holding gel pack on shoulder.

Try putting your arms above your head, does it hurt? If raising your arm above your head is difficult or causes shoulder pain, you may have a common condition known as frozen shoulder. So what exactly is frozen shoulder? It can be treated in several different ways, but patients often wonder if frozen shoulder will go away on its own.

What is a frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis is a condition that’s marked by pain and a loss of your shoulders normal range of motion. It often involves pain and stiffness, that come on gradually, which may get worse and eventually will go away. The time frame can be anywhere from 1 to 3 years.

What are the symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

This condition can cause the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Limited shoulder movement – Everyday tasks such as reaching for an item on a high shelf or putting on a jacket can become very difficult.

What causes a frozen shoulder?

A capsule of connective tissue encases the bones, ligaments, and tendons of your shoulder joint. It can thicken and grow tighter around your shoulder joint, causing the condition known as frozen shoulder. It’s not completely understood why some people develop frozen shoulder, but the following are some risk factors that can make this condition more likely:

  • Age and gender: being a woman and/or between the ages of 40 and 60
  • Temporary shoulder immobility: medical conditions like a broken arm, mastectomy, or stroke recovery that can make it difficult to move your shoulder
  • Certain diseases: such as diabetes, thyroid disease, cardiovascular disease, or Parkinson’s disease

How is a frozen shoulder treated?

Frozen shoulder often gets better on its own within 12 to 18 months. Your doctor can suggest the following ways to help alleviate symptoms:

  • Ice: Applying an ice pack to your shoulder for 15 minutes at a time several times a day can help reduce pain.
  • Medication: Medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Exercises: A physical therapist can help you work on range-of-motion exercises.
  • Injections: Your doctor may administer injections of corticosteroids to lessen pain and improve mobility. He or she may also inject sterile water into the joint capsule to help stretch the tissue.
  • Arthroscopic surgery: This option is used only when other treatment methods don’t provide enough relief. Surgery can remove scar tissue and adhesions from inside the joint.

Can a frozen shoulder go away on its own?

A frozen shoulder can often go away on its own, but it might take up to 1 to 3 years for this to happen.

How can frozen shoulder be prevented?

Getting help when you first start experiencing symptoms can help relieve pain and stiffness and reduce the amount of time this condition lasts. If you have a disease – such as diabetes – that’s linked to an increased risk of frozen shoulder, maintaining good control over your illness can help reduce your chances of developing this painful condition.

If you have pain and stiffness in your shoulder, make an appointment today with Specialty Orthopaedics in Harrison, NY. We’ll provide the most effective, least invasive forms of treatment to help relieve your pain and restore your range of motion. Our practice offers the most innovative conservative and surgical treatments for a variety of issues, including frozen shoulder.

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