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Frozen shoulder is a disease of the capsule or socket that holds your shoulder in place inside your shoulder joint. Your shoulder joint is made up of the upper end of your upper arm bone, and the ends of your shoulder blade and collar bone. Your shoulder joint is one of the most moveable joints in your body.
Frozen shoulder is a condition that usually starts between ages 40 and 60. It is more common in women than men. The cause is the thickening of the shoulder capsule. The thickening decreases muscle movement and causes pain. Over time, scar tissue forms inside the capsule freezing the shoulder and limiting motion. This is called adhesive capsulitis. The cause of adhesive capsulitis is not known. You may be at higher risk if you have diabetes or thyroid disease.
Signs of Frozen Shoulder
Signs of a frozen shoulder come in three stages. In the first stage, called the freezing stage, you have increasing dull and aching pain in your shoulder that gradually limits your range of motion. This stage may last from 6 weeks to 9 months. In the second stage, called the frozen stage, pain decreases, but you are unable to move your shoulder. This stage may last from 4 to 6 months. The final stage is the thawing stage. You begin to get back your shoulder motion. It may take from 6 months to 2 years to get normal movement and strength of your shoulder back.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Frozen Shoulder
Your doctor can usually diagnose a frozen shoulder from your signs and symptoms. Imaging studies of your shoulder may also be done. Although frozen shoulder tends to get better on its own over time, treatment is done to relieve pain, increase motion, and regain strength. Physical therapy is the main treatment. During physical therapy, frozen shoulder exercises are done by the therapist to move your shoulder. You will learn frozen shoulder exercises and do them at home. Other treatments may also be done:
- You may take medications to relieve pain, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- You may have an injection of your shoulder with an anti-inflammatory steroid drug, called a cortisone shot for frozen shoulder.
- Injection of your shoulder with sterile saline may be done to expand the capsule and break up the scar tissue. This is called a hydrolation injection.
- You may need to be put to sleep while a doctor manipulates your shoulder to break up the scar tissue.
- You may have surgery to remove the scar tissue.
Reducing Shoulder Pain at Night and Other Home Care
Frozen shoulder pain at night can be reduced by learning how to seep with a frozen shoulder. If you sleep on your back, place a pillow under your upper arm for support and let your lower arm and hand rest across your chest. If you sleep on your side, do not sleep on the side of the frozen shoulder. Sleep on the other side, while hugging a pillow to your chest with the frozen shoulder arm.
Frozen shoulder takes a long time to get better. Home care is an important part of treatment. Do frozen shoulder exercises at home as told by your physical therapist. These may include frozen shoulder stretches and strengthening exercises. Use heat packs or cold packs to relieve shoulder pain as directed by your physical therapist.
Frozen shoulder can be a difficult condition to live with, but it does get better with time and treatment. Let your doctor know if you have shoulder pain at night, or pain and stiffness during the day that does not go away after a few days or continues to get worse.