Most of us probably know what it is like to have someone give us the cold shoulder, but have you ever heard of a frozen shoulder? Does that come from someone who is really cruel and mean? For purposes of this article, frozen shoulder has nothing to do with emotions and everything to do with adhesive capsulitis, which is the fancier, medical term for the condition. (I wonder if we could stir up the pot and say, “Wow! That person just gave me the adhesive capsulitis!” instead of saying the cold shoulder!? Doubt it!)
From a physical perspective, frozen shoulder is a condition that is characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. The symptoms and signs of this condition begin slowly, worsening over time, and then usually resolve themselves within a two-year period of time.
You may be at risk for this condition if your shoulder has been recently compromised, due to surgery in which your arm was immobilized in a specific position, or if you have had your arm in a sling for several weeks.
Frozen shoulder develops slowly and usually presents through three stages, and each stage can last for several months. The initial stage is the most painful stage. Any movement of your shoulder can elicit sharp pain, and you may notice a decrease in your shoulder’s range of motion.
During the next phase, known as the frozen stage, the pain may begin to disappear, but your shoulder will become noticeably stiffer, and your range of motion is drastically reduced.
The third stage, known as the thawing stage, the range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve. For some people, the pain associated with frozen shoulder worsens at night and can disrupt their sleep.
The exact causes behind frozen shoulder are not clearly known to doctors, but it is more likely, as mentioned above, to occur in those who have recently endured prolonged immobilization of the shoulder, due to surgery, an arm fracture, rotator cuff injury, or a stroke, for instance. There also exists a high incidence of this condition in those individuals with diabetes, so there may be some sort of autoimmune basis that contributes to the condition of frozen shoulder.