What’s Frozen Shoulder?

Stiffness, pain and loss of motion are all symptoms of frozen shoulder – and no, it has nothing to do with temperature.

The capsule of the shoulder joint has ligaments that hold the shoulder bones to each other and when the capsule becomes enflamed, the shoulder bones are unable to move freely (they freeze) in the joint.

However, “Most of the time, when it happens, it’s what we cause idiopathic, which means we don’t know why it happens,” Andrew Islam MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the TriHealth Orthopedic and Spine Institute, explains. Diabetics and those with thyroid problems are more at risk for developing this condition.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder starts becoming painful over the course of a few weeks to a couple of months. Unless you had some sort of trauma to the shoulder area, frozen shoulder often occurs seemingly out of nowhere. Eventually the initial stiffness and pain can develop into the inability to perform certain movements, like reaching over your head or behind you. 

How to Treat Frozen Shoulder

In most cases frozen shoulder usually just loosens up by itself, but it takes time, Dr. Islam says.

For pain management, on the other hand, your doctor may prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or steroid injections and physical therapy. If physical therapy doesn’t improve range of motion or stiffness, your doctor may suggest surgery. “You usually only do that after people haven’t loosened up for four to six months,” Dr. Islam adds. “It can take a year for it to fully go away but it almost always goes away by itself.”

Tags Orthopedics

Last Updated: September 18, 2014