Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by pain and stiffness of the shoulder joint. Frozen shoulder occurs in about 2% of the population, targeting people between 40-60 years of age and affecting women more than men.
The shoulder joint is known as a ball-in-socket joint, allowing for approximately 180 degrees of motion. This joint is surrounded by a strong connective tissue known as the shoulder capsule. To allow your shoulder to move more easily the shoulder joint and capsule are lubricated with a natural fluid known as synovial fluid.
In frozen shoulder, the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint thickens and tightens, developing what is called adhesions. These adhesions limit the normal range of the shoulder making it very difficult to move the shoulder.
Frozen shoulder typically develops in three stages:
- Freezing: in this first stage the pain slowly increases; as the pain increases you develop a decrease in range of motion. This stage can last anywhere from 6 weeks to 9 months
- Frozen: in the second stage pain symptoms generally improve, however the stiffness and decrease in movement continue. This stage can last anywhere from 4 to 6 months.
- Thawing: in the final stage motion slowly improves, return to normal or close to normal motion of the shoulder can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years from initial onset.
Unfortunately, the cause of frozen shoulder is not yet fully understood. There are however, a few factors that put you more at risk for developing frozen shoulder.
- Diabetes: frozen shoulder occurs more often in people with diabetes, affecting 10-20%of these people.
- Diseases: some additional medical problems that are associated with frozen shoulder include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, cardiac disease, and Parkinson’s
- Immobilization: frozen shoulder can occur after the shoulder has been immobilized for a period of time from fracture, surgery, or other injury.
While frozen shoulder has a lengthy course of natural recovery, symptoms can be ameliorated by visiting your chiropractor or physiotherapist, who can work to break down the adhesions and improve the shoulder’s strength and range of motion.