Frozen Shoulder: Causes and Treatments

Frozen shoulder is a condition that refers to the gradual loss of movement in the shoulder joint. As the condition worsens, people typically experience more pain, making it difficult to move. Fortunately, people who suffer from frozen shoulder have treatment options.
If you have pain in your shoulder and difficulty moving it, you could have frozen shoulder. It’s best to consult with an orthopedic specialist for diagnosis and to discuss your treatment options. Our specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic can help you evaluate your medical records to determine the best treatment path forward. Our Concierge Team can also assist you in streamlining treatment and accommodation needs.

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

Medical professionals don’t have an exact answer about what causes frozen shoulder. However, on a general level, inflammation of the tissues surrounding the shoulder joint is the main culprit. The soft tissue that holds the shoulder joint together, called the capsule, has expanding and contracting folds. The capsule expands and contracts as a person moves their arm in different positions.

In a frozen shoulder, the capsule is swollen, irritated, and inflamed. Oftentimes, people also have scars called adhesions. As the folds in the capsule become scarred, they tighten up, restricting shoulder movement. Once this occurs, people experience pain when they move their shoulder.

Some suspected causes of frozen shoulder include:

  • Immobilization of the arm after injury or surgery
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Bursitis
  • Stroke

Your doctor can examine your medical history and give you a better idea of why you might have developed frozen shoulder.

Stages of Frozen Shoulder

Patients generally experience frozen shoulder in three stages. The first stage is characterized by increasing pain and loss of range of motion, which can last up to nine months.

Once the shoulder is frozen, pain can subside. However, patients still suffer from stiffness, making it difficult to perform daily tasks. This stage often lasts four to six months.

Then, mobility slowly improves during the thawing stage. A full recovery from frozen shoulder can take up to two years.

Treatments for Frozen Shoulder

Initially, treatments involve non-invasive techniques and procedures. Doctors often prescribe anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications to manage pain. In the worst cases, they might prescribe narcotics or give a patient steroid injections in their shoulder joint.

Reducing pain helps those who suffer from frozen shoulder engage in physical therapy to increase mobility in their shoulder. Physical therapy typically involves the therapist moving a person’s arm to stretch the capsule. Patients can also expect to do home exercises and stretches to help increase motion. Hydrodilatation is another possible treatment for some with frozen shoulders. This includes a radiologist injecting sterile water into the shoulder joint to stretch the capsule so a patient can move more easily.

When non-invasive procedures do not decrease pain or improve a patient’s range of motion, your doctor might recommend surgery. The exact surgical procedure depends on how much scarring has occurred in the joint tissues. Historically, surgeons manipulated the shoulder to break down the scarring. Today, arthroscopic surgery is more common. Surgeons insert a small instrument with a camera through a small incision in the shoulder. Once the instrument is in the body, they use it to cut the capsular adhesions. 

Contact the Experienced Back Specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic Today

Frozen shoulder is a painful and debilitating condition that makes it difficult to function. However, you don’t have to live in pain – you have options for treatment. The experienced back specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic have experience with varied treatments for frozen shoulder, helping patients gain mobility and reduce pain in their shoulder joints.

NJ Spine & Orthopedic works with many different insurance providers and our experienced surgeons have taught surgical techniques to others throughout the nation. Contact us online or at (866) 553-0612 to learn more about potential solutions to deal with your chronic back or neck pain.

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