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Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder- Causes, Treatments, and More


Frozen shoulder is a common condition we see at Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopaedics. This condition refers to stiffness in the shoulder. Often times patients report their shoulder feeling "frozen" or unable to lift their arm above their head. The loss of movement in the shoulder can happen gradually until eventually, the joint feels stuck or "frozen." There are underlying diseases related to the condition and a host of different causes.


What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

Inflammation is a key issue with a frozen shoulder. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, making it one of the most mobile in the body. When inflammation of the tissues around the joint occurs, it can cause stiffness, pain, swelling, and eventually loss of range of motion. These tissues are called capsules, which help the joint move around the joint. A result of inflammation in the capsule can result in scarring, which causes pain and stiffness in the joint. 

An injury to the shoulder that is left both untreated and immobilized can also be a cause of frozen shoulder. Though diabetes is not a direct cause, those with the inflammatory disease have been shown to have a higher risk of a frozen shoulder than others. According to the American Diabetes Association, this may be due to the increase in glucose in the blood which attaches to the collagen in the lining of the shoulder (diabetes.org).

What are the Signs of a Frozen Shoulder 

Signs of frozen shoulder include pain, inflammation or swelling of the shoulder, loss of range of motion, and total immobilization. In most cases, frozen shoulder does not occur suddenly. Patients report gradual stiffness in the shoulder until they are unable to raise their arm. The muscles that are at the top of your arm are usually the ones that experience the most pain.

What is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of a Frozen Shoulder?

We encourage patients to see a doctor before trying to release their frozen shoulder on their own. A doctor can release it for you and/or give you stretches and exercises to do at home. Doing a simple cross-body stretch can help prevent or treat frozen shoulders before it gets too bad. 

Is Frozen Shoulder a Sign of Arthritis?

It can be easy to think the frozen shoulder is related to arthritis due to its shared symptom of inflammation, but the two conditions are unrelated. The pain and symptoms from arthritis are mainly from the inflammation of joints, whereas frozen shoulder is from stiffness in the shoulder joint specifically. Frozen shoulder is when the shoulder capsule becomes thick and tight. 

How Can You Prevent Frozen Shoulders?

Preventing stiffness and maintaining your range of motion are key to preventing frozen shoulders. Simple exercises can be done at home daily to work on both of these! We encourage patients to work with a physical therapist if they have concerns about developing a frozen shoulder. They will be able to examine your shoulder and give you the correct exercises and stretches to perform 


What are the Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulders?

Treatment Options Include:


- At Home Stretches / Physical Therapy

- Cortisol Injections

- RICE Method (rest, ice, compress, elevate)


When Should I See a Doctor for Frozen Shoulder?

If your shoulder is immobilized or becoming stiff, it is important to see an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the shoulder. They can take XRAYS and/or MRIs to diagnose frozen shoulder and ensure no other conditions or injuries are present.

Who Specializes in the Shoulder at Elite?

Both Dr. Thomas Dovan and Dr. Samuel Crosby specialize in the hand and upper extremities. They both have extensive training and experience dealing with frozen shoulder.

Cassie Whittaker Cassie is the Communications Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/cassie-whittaker-802a3b173

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