Frozen shoulder causes acute pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint, which typically gets worse if you raise your arm above a certain height or try to reach around your front or behind your back. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, this condition often starts to appear gradually, gets significantly worse over time, then slowly recedes.
At Strasburger Orthopaedics – Syracuse Area Health, Dr. Scott Strasburger provides a range of treatments for frozen shoulder to relieve pain and stiffness and restore mobility.
Causes of Frozen Shoulder
Your shoulder joint is a capsule of connective tissue surrounding the bones, tendons, and ligaments. If the capsule thickens, it increases tightness and pressure on the shoulder joint, “freezing” it in place. You are more at risk if you’re recovering from a medical condition such as a stroke, a procedure that limited arm motion during recovery, like rotator cuff surgery, or a trauma like a fractured bone in the arm. You’re also at higher risk if you are over 40 years of age and/or female.
Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder
The frozen shoulder “cycle” can last from one to three years, and consists of the following stages:
- In the freezing stage, the shoulder is more painful than it is stiff. Eventually, any movement of your shoulder can cause pain, and you’ll start to lose your range of motion.
- In the frozen stage, pain typically starts to diminish, but the stiffness gets markedly worse. Your range of motion decreases even more and picking things up can become difficult.
- In the thawing stage, the stiffness lessens slowly over time, and you’ll start to get your range of motion back as your shoulder “unfreezes”.
Treatment for Frozen Shoulder
Most patients can recover from frozen shoulder with exercise plans designed to improve range of motion. Some cases require numbing medication and corticosteroids to be injected directly into the joint capsule to reduce inflammation and pain. If these more conservative treatments fail, Dr. Strasburger may recommend surgery.
Surgery to address the frozen shoulder is done arthroscopically, using tiny incisions, a camera, and very small tools to do the repair inside the joint. This allows for less trauma to all of your shoulder tissues and swifter recovery.
Recovery from Frozen Shoulder
Recovery from a frozen shoulder can take 12-18 months, or up to 3 years if there is no intervention. With treatment, this recovery time can be reduced. If you are experiencing pain and increasing stiffness in a shoulder joint, it could be frozen shoulder, especially if the pain gets worse at night. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Strasburger, contact any of our three locations (in Syracuse, Lincoln, and Nebraska City, NE.)