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FROZEN SHOULDER SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES

Every year, patients across the U.S. make trips to doctors and therapists to find an answer for their shoulder stiffness, pain, and other symptoms.

Unfortunately, many experts either misdiagnose the problem or prescribe treatments that only manage symptoms. In the worst cases, poorly designed treatment programs can make the condition worse. At the World Frozen Shoulder Clinic, we know better. It’s best not to try to simply control or manage the pain when you can cure it instead!

The condition of adhesive capsulitis, commonly known as frozen shoulder, starts with pain and stiffness that develops into rigidity where any shoulder movement is difficult to do.

Common Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

These are some of the most commonly reported frozen shoulder symptoms:
Additionally, frozen shoulder symptoms extend beyond the shoulder region, so patients may also experience:

What happens to the shoulder when this condition develops?

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DEVELOPING FROZEN SHOULDER: EFFECTS ON THE ANATOMY

The human shoulder is extremely specialized and the most complicated joint of the body. It is comprised of three bones that create the ball-and-socket joint:
The ball is actually the top of your arm bone (the humeral head), and the socket is part of your shoulder blade; the upper arm bone fits into the socket. Surrounding this ball-and-socket joint is a capsule of tissue that envelops the joint, and that is precisely where the damage occurs.

The Shoulder Joint

The shoulder joint normally allows for a larger range of motion than any other joint in the body. Frozen shoulder is a condition that causes severely painful restriction of motion in the shoulder joint.

Loss of shoulder mobility may occur when the shoulder capsule around the joint contracts, and bands of scar tissue, called adhesions, form. In addition, the soft sacs that cushion the joint, called bursas, may stick together. The shoulder joint becomes stiff and scarred creating havoc on the ball-and-socket joint.

When an individual does not seek out a frozen shoulder treatment, they can suffer permanent damage, since their body will secrete enzymes into the synovial fluids of the shoulder joint. This process leads to the deterioration of cartilage.

A frozen shoulder takes a long time to fully develop; there are three stages, so it’s recommended to see a doctor who knows frozen shoulder symptoms and treatment for them.

FROZEN SHOULDER SYMPTOMS DURING THE THREE STAGES

Stage 1: Freezing
Stage 1: Freezing

The patient feels a dull ache. There is an increasing amount of pain and stiffness that slowly reduce the shoulder’s range of motion. This process can last two to nine months. 

Stage 2: Frozen
Stage 2: Frozen

The pain in the upper arm and shoulder region usually subsides at this stage, but stiffness and reduced mobility in the joint capsule increase. Patients feel a sharp nerve pain when making sudden or forceful movements. Patients experience the frozen stage for four months and sometimes as much as over a year.
Stage 3: Thawing
Stage 3: Thawing

At this final stage, the shoulder “thaws” whereby it regains its usual range of motion. This stage can last from two to three years. However, it’s important to note that about 10% of cases will not regain normal shoulder motion without medical intervention, and patients are highly likely to suffer permanent damage.

FROZEN SHOULDER SYMPTOMS TYPICALLY OCCUR BETWEEN THE AGES OF 40-60 YEARS

Frozen shoulder causes the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint to contract and form scar tissue, which prevents the shoulder bone from being able to move in the socket. The contraction of the capsule and the formation of the adhesions cause the frozen shoulder to become stiff and movement becomes extremely painful. The shoulder literally becomes “frozen,” which is why the condition has been given the name “frozen shoulder.”

The formal medical term for frozen shoulder is adhesive capsulitis, and this disorder has a range of symptoms, though a progressive lack of mobility and increased pain are reported in nearly every case. There are many possible causes for the onset of this ailment, but typically it occurs between the ages of 40-60 years.

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FROZEN SHOULDER CAUSES

To this day, much of the medical community is still uncertain about what causes frozen shoulder. However, Dr. Oolo-Austin at the World Frozen Shoulder Clinic has devoted much time and energy to the study of this condition to gain insight into how and why people develop frozen shoulder.

His conclusions and revolutionary treatment are based on the last 40 years of clinical observations, and pinpoint three common reasons frozen shoulder occurs:

NERVE COMPRESSION (LOWER NECK DISC PATHOLOGY)

Patients with lower neck disc conditions or muscle contraction conditions should expect to experience frozen shoulder. Long-term compression of the nerves that provide motor and sensory information to the shoulder and arm can weaken the muscles and shoulder joint.

HORMONAL IMBALANCE

A hormonal imbalance occurs when an individual has menopause, diabetes, adrenal stress, a testosterone imbalance or many other conditions. If there’s an imbalance in the endocrine system, there will also be one in the body’s immune system and healing response. Everything is connected in the human body. A significant imbalance will trigger an overactive or underactive healing response. (See Shoulder Injuries as an example.)

SHOULDER INJURIES

Muscle or tendon injuries result in protective inflammation around the affected area. If a hormonal imbalance is present, however, the inflammatory response is too strong. The body will create excessive amounts of scar tissue in response.

OTHER RISK FACTORS

While age, gender, and other factors such as, a shoulder injury, hormonal imbalance, etc., are risk factors that can cause frozen shoulder, some systemic conditions can also increase your chances of developing frozen shoulder. 

Heart disease and Parkinson’s disease are two examples. There are some cases where patients are stressed and feel “frozen” in a decision-making process, thereby developing a frozen shoulder as a psychosomatic reaction. It’s crucial to your wellbeing to seek medical help if you’re experiencing any frozen shoulder symptoms and causes.

Before they diagnose frozen shoulder, your doctor will review your medical history, do a physical exam, and opt for further tests, including X-rays, to analyze your shoulder structure for changes. Imaging tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can also be used to determine if you have a frozen shoulder or other condition, such as a rotator cuff tear.

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