As we age, some degree of joint pain is natural. We may have achy hips when the temperature drops, or creaky knees when climbing stairs.
But some people develop unusual pain and stiffness that makes it hard to move and use their joints. About two percent of the population develops “frozen shoulder,” a condition that causes the shoulder joint to lose function.
If you’ve developed shoulder pain and limited range of motion, it may be time to talk to your doctor. Even though frozen shoulder can get better, it requires specific treatment including shoulder exercises. Your doctor will also want to rule out other causes of shoulder pain and stiffness, including arthritis or a torn rotator cuff.
Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. A group of tendons and muscles called the rotator cuff holds your upper arm inside the socket. And a strong band of connective tissue called the shoulder capsule wraps around your rotator cuff and shoulder joint. Sometimes the shoulder capsule thickens and tightens, restricting your shoulder movement.
Frozen shoulder often comes on gradually in three stages:
Each of these stages can last for several months. The total time from onset to recovery may take up to three years.
Sometimes frozen shoulder is linked to a previous shoulder injury, or a medical condition like diabetes. But it often develops with no known cause.
Whether your symptoms come out of nowhere, or appear after your shoulder was immobilized in a sling, Mercy’s orthopedic specialists can help. Frozen shoulder treatment usually requires a combination of medicine and exercise, including:
Surgery is often used as a last resort when other treatments have failed. During arthroscopic shoulder surgery, your doctor may remove scar tissue or cut through tight sections of the shoulder capsule.
Most people with frozen shoulder return to normal (or near normal) shoulder function, but it takes time and commitment. We know it’s natural to feel frustrated when you’re not getting better as quickly as you’d like. But you can rest assured that our orthopedic team will be with you every step of the way.