Frozen Shoulder: Signs, Treatment, and Prevention

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder is a disabling disorder that affects the connective tissues surrounding the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder. The area becomes stiff, painful and inflamed. The pain is bad enough to limit movement. The inflammation gets progressively worse during the night or in cold weather. The pain goes away slowly. In most cases, the pain remains for a year or more before fading away.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder has no known cause. Some experts believe that this condition is triggered by trauma or could be an autoimmune disorder. Some doctors believe it’s caused by the lack of movement in the joints. For instance, diabetics or stroke survivors who cannot move their limbs usually suffer from a frozen shoulder.

This condition is common among individuals 40 to 70 years old. Frozen shoulder is also common among people afflicted with chronic diseases. Women are also vulnerable to this condition than men.

Treating Frozen Shoulder

NSAID and Painkillers

The usual treatment for frozen shoulder is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID. The medication helps ease pain and bring down inflammation. Over the counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen also alleviate symptoms of a frozen shoulder. If the pain is severe, you can combine paracetamol with NSAID. Of course, you have to consult your doctor first.

Corticosteroid Injections

If NSAID and painkillers no longer help manage pain, you can get a corticosteroid injection in your shoulder joint. Corticosteroids are medication that eliminate severe inflammation and pain. This drug also bring back the movement in the shoulder. However, if the effects of the drug fade, the pain and stiffness will return. Also, do not get corticosteroids shots if the stiffness remains. Too much of the stuff could cause tissue damage. Over time, corticosteroids also lose effectiveness. You should not get more than three injections and at least three to four weeks of rest in between shots.

Stretching Exercises

Stretching the shoulders prevent stiffness and cuts the pain. The key is to keep the shoulder joint mobile. Star gradually, you don’t want to stress the muscles. Use regular, gentle massages first to prep the muscles. Slowly move on to basic stretching exercises.

If the shoulders are too stiff or too painful, stretching will be a struggle. You can ask your physician or physiotherapist exercises that won’t worsen the pain.


Physiotherapy utilizes various techniques to improve joint movement and restore flexibility in stiff muscles. It also includes massage and thermotherapy to bring down swelling, prevent inflammation and manage pain.


If all else fail, you will require surgery to loosen tight muscle tissues around the shoulders. There are two types of surgeries to treat frozen shoulders: manipulation and arthroscope. Manipulation is done under anesthesia. The surgeon will move the shoulders to stretch the tissues. On the other hand, arthroscope requires cutting through the tight and scar tissues to restore mobility.

Preventing Frozen Shoulder

To prevent an episode of frozen shoulder, do workouts that strengthen the joints and tendons. You can also boost your intake of vitamin D and probiotics to prevent inflammation. A healthy, well-balanced diet is also a must. You want to eliminate all types of processed foods from your diet to avoid this condition.

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