Frozen shoulder can persist for many years if not treated properly, and some people never fully heal without external assistance. It progresses slowly through three stages, each lasting weeks, months, or even years.
Those with this condition understand how the pain and limited range of motion make daily chores difficult and excruciating. However, knowing the signs and symptoms of the various frozen shoulder phases will help patients understand their situation and determine their best treatment choices.
At World Frozen Shoulder Clinics, we offer non-surgical solutions for shoulder pain. The sooner you visit any of our offices, the faster our experienced specialists will help you get lasting relief. This article will discuss how you can tell whether your frozen shoulder is starting to thaw.
FROZEN SHOULDER SYNDROME STAGES
Frozen shoulder syndrome progresses slowly through three stages:
- Freezing Stage
- Frozen Stage
- Thawing Stage
Each stage can last weeks to years and has its own symptoms. To rule out other possible issues with the shoulder joint, your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as x-rays or an MRI, depending on the degree of your pain and symptoms and the stage of your frozen shoulder.
The Freezing Stage
The freezing stage, lasting anywhere from two to nine months, is the first and most painful stage. The range of motion constraints are generally mild at first, which is why it is frequently misunderstood. Many health practitioners mistake this stage for rotator cuff or bursitis at first sight.
Yet the discomfort and stiffness grow steadily over time until they reach the frozen state. The ineffectiveness of standard therapies and the increasing nature of symptoms, such as range of motion limits, are the major markers of frozen shoulder.
The Frozen Stage
Following the freezing phase, the shoulder joint becomes frozen, lasting four to six months or even a year. Because of the absence of passive mobility in the shoulder, a physician may have a slightly easier time diagnosing frozen shoulder at this point. With other shoulder issues, a patient may have difficulty reaching a certain position on their own, such as extending an arm above. This is an example of active range of motion loss.
However, frozen shoulder also causes a loss of passive range of motion, which means that even when a physician or physical therapist tries to move the afflicted arm, shoulder mobility is impossible. This is mainly related to shoulder adhesions that hinder normal shoulder mechanics, hence the diagnosis. During this stage, most people say that their pain is less intense. Rotating the upper arm is especially difficult, making a variety of everyday tasks uncomfortable leading to arduous ordeals.
The Thawing Stage
The final stage of frozen shoulder is thawing, which can take anywhere from six months to two years. During the last stage, the shoulder capsule will gradually release and the range of motion will begin to improve. However, the shoulder may never return to normal without adequate medical care.
Exercises and stretches become considerably easier during the thawing period, but there’s still a long way to go until you can move your shoulder without pain or stiffness.
SIGNS THAT THE SHOULDER IS ABOUT TO THAW
Decreased Shoulder Stiffness
One of the first signs that the frozen shoulder is starting to thaw is that it loosens and is no longer as stiff as it was. The patient may notice decreased tension in the shoulder, arm, neck, and back. As tightness in the shoulder capsule reduces, the ability to perform certain movements slowly returns.
Lost Movements are Regained
Moving into the thawing stage, movements that were temporarily lost are regained, so those who were unable to raise their arms above a certain height will notice they can once again pull off these movements that were part of their everyday routine.
Improved Range of Motion
Range of motion improves once the shoulder joint becomes progressively more mobile, and the individual can once again carry out tasks they were able to perform before the shoulder froze up. They may extend the arm out to the side, in front of them, and eventually, will even be able to reach above their head. As the range of motion improvements become obvious, it is important not to overdo things.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is my frozen shoulder getting better?
The first sign that a frozen shoulder is starting to thaw is that it does not feel as stiff as it may have been in the first two stages. An impossible movement becomes more manageable, and there is an increase in the range of motion.
What does a frozen shoulder feel like when it thaws?
Movements may be limited, and the patient won’t necessarily have a normal range of motion. The pain generally lessens in time, and when the shoulder starts to thaw, the stiffness should begin to fade so that the shoulder can be moved more normally.
Is there pain in the thawing stage of a frozen shoulder?
Before the thawing stage, the shoulder may be so stiff that reaching around the body to put on a belt or coat is difficult. Even combing one’s hair feels almost impossible. Some pain may remain for a while when thawing starts, but the pain in the shoulder should begin to diminish, particularly if it is not used too much. The range of motion will also improve.
SHOULDER TREATMENTS AVAILABLE AT WORLD FROZEN SHOULDER CLINIC
If you need any advice or guidance regarding your Frozen Shoulder speak to the frozen shoulder specialists at World Frozen Shoulder Clinic. In addition to our Manual Capsular Dissection (MCD) procedure, we offer the Shoulder Impingement Syndrome procedure, which relieves the most excruciating shoulder pain. Request a free consultation today.
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