What is frozen shoulder pain like?

Frozen shoulder pain is pain throughout the shoulder with associated loss of range of motion. Frozen shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis. The motion lost is both active and passive motion, meaning that you aren’t able to move it yourself, but that it is also stiff if anyone else tries to move it. Contrast frozen shoulder with other shoulder issues where passive range of motion is generally not lost. Most of the time, the pain associated with a frozen shoulder comes on insidiously and can last for a long time. If you’ve noticed that your shoulder is very stiff and started hurting for no reason, you may have a frozen shoulder. I treat a fair amount of frozen shoulder as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

What is the main cause of frozen shoulder?

The main cause of frozen shoulder is unknown. As doctors, we say that it is idiopathic, meaning that we don’t know what caused it. Those who have diabetes or a thyroid disorder are more likely to get frozen shoulders, but even in those cases we don’t really know why one diabetic patient gets a frozen shoulder and another does not. There are some post traumatic causes of frozen shoulder. If you have recently broken your shoulder or have gotten shoulder surgery, that may have caused your frozen shoulder. The technical terms for these are post-traumatic adhesive capsulitis, and post-surgical adhesive capsulitis.

Can frozen shoulder go away on its own?

The good news is that frozen shoulder does go away on its own. The bad news is that it can take a very very long time. There are three different phases of frozen shoulder. The first one is the freezing or painful stage. This stage lasts anywhere from 6 weeks to 9 months and is characterized by a gradual onset of shoulder pain with associated loss of motion. The next stage is the frozen stage, where the shoulder doesn’t hurt as much, but it is very stiff. The frozen stage can last from anywhere from 4 to 9 months. The last stage is the thawing stage, where your shoulder range of motion gradually comes back. The thawing stage can last from anywhere from 5 to 26 months. If you add all of the stages up, you are looking at anywhere from about 10 to 44 months (almost 4 years) to get completely through all of the stages of frozen shoulder.

What is the fastest way to heal frozen shoulder?

Most people don’t really want to wait for up to 4 years for their frozen shoulder to completely heal. Thankfully, there are some good methods to treat frozen shoulder that I commonly use as an orthopedic surgeon here in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A steroid injection can often work wonders for a frozen shoulder, especially if you are in the painful stage. I like to give two steroid injections for frozen shoulder; one in the shoulder joint itself, and the other in the subacromial space (right above the shoulder joint but below the shoulder blade. After the injections, I send my patients to physical therapy. You may need physical therapy for a while, but the combination of injections and physical therapy usually gets rid of frozen shoulder. Rarely, I will need to put someone under anesthesia and manipulate their arm while they are asleep. Even rarer, someone may need surgery to release the shoulder capsule from the inside. 

What is the best exercise for frozen shoulder?

The best exercises for frozen shoulder are those that involve gentle, pain free stretching and heat treatment. You want to gradually stretch your shoulder, but you don’t want to have the stretches be very painful. Painful stretching will lead to shoulder inflammation and make the frozen shoulder worse. An example of some stretches can be found in this video on frozen shoulder stretches.

I hope I was able to answer some of your questions about what frozen shoulder pain is like, and how to get rid of frozen shoulder. If you would like me to treat your frozen shoulder, contact us below to make an appointment if you are in the Colorado Springs area. I also am available for virtual consults in the following states: CO, FL, HI, IA, MO, MS, MT, NE, NH, NY, PA, SC, VT, WI, WV. 

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