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Symptoms and Causes of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis (as it is known in medical term) is a medical condition with pain in shoulder joint along with stiffness of the joint. The symptoms and signs of frozen shoulder begin gradually and over time they worsen, which generally tend to resolve on its own in one to three years. Management of frozen shoulder involve judicious use of pain medications along with range of motion exercises and corticosteroids. A few cases may warrant use of arthroscopic surgery. Frozen shoulder usually do not recur in the same shoulder, however it may occur in the other shoulder, in some persons.

Symptoms of frozen shoulder:

They symptoms of frozen shoulder typically starts gradually and worsen over time. Symptoms usually go through three stages, freezing stage, frozen stage and thawing stage. Some patients with frozen shoulder experience sever pain at the affected shoulder joint during night which disturb sleep.

Freezing stage: this is the beginning of the condition and there is pain on movement of shoulder. Gradually the range of motion at shoulder joint become restricted/limited.

Frozen stage: pain tend to gradually diminish at this stage. However, shoulder joint becomes stiff and motion at shoulder joint becomes very much limited. Hence, use of shoulder joint becomes difficult.

Thawing stage: at this stage gradually movement and range of motion at shoulder joint improves. The stiffness of shoulder joint is also reduced. Pain also reduces.

What is the cause of frozen shoulder?

Shoulder joint is made up of bones, ligaments and tendons, which are encapsulated (the capsule is made up of connective tissue). Frozen shoulder occurs if this capsule of shoulder joint thickens (usually inflamed) for any reason. When the capsule becomes thick, it restricts movement at shoulder joint, which may also be very painful. The exact cause of capsule thickening is not clearly known, however, frozen shoulder (capsule thickening) more commonly occur in people who suffer from certain chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, and in people whose shoulder joint has been recently immobilized for long time for any reason (such as fracture of humerus or other bones of arm and forearm or may be due to some surgical procedure at shoulder or adjoining areas). Persons recovering from stroke and surgery such as mastectomy (removal of part or whole breast) may have to restrict movement of shoulder joint for long duration and risk developing frozen shoulder.

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