What is a frozen shoulder?

The connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint can thicken and tighten resulting in scar tissue or “adhesions” in a condition known as frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis. The tissue thickening can develop into symptoms of pain and stiffness that worsen over time and eventually cause loss of shoulder and arm movement. Some cases can result in a complete loss of shoulder function making simple daily activities, such as driving a car or getting dressed, painful and difficult. Dr. Ronak Mukesh Patel, orthopedic shoulder specialist serving patients in Sugar Land, Pearland, and the Houston, Texas area, has the knowledge and understanding, as well as substantial experience, in treating patients who have experienced a frozen shoulder.

What causes a frozen shoulder?

It is not fully understood why some individuals are more susceptible to experiencing a frozen shoulder. However, some underlying health conditions have been found to increase the likelihood of developing a frozen shoulder. These are as follows:

  • Age and Gender: Adhesive capsulitis is more common in women over the age of 40.
  • Diabetes: A frozen shoulder is more common in patients with diabetes and they often develop more severe and prolonged symptoms.
  • Lack of movement: If the shoulder is immobile for an extended period of time, typically the result of a prior injury, can contribute to symptoms of a frozen shoulder.
  • Additional underlying health conditions: Many health conditions have also been linked to frozen shoulder development, including stroke, cardiac disease, thyroid disorders, tuberculosis, and Parkinson’s Disease.

Are there different stages of a frozen shoulder?

There are three different stages that characterize the severity of frozen shoulder symptom development:

  • Freezing: This stage can span between 6 weeks and 9 months and is identified by the decreased range of motion of the shoulder and the gradual worsening of frozen shoulder symptoms.
  • Frozen: In this stage, lasting 4 to 6 months, pain begins to subside while shoulder stiffness is still evident.
  • Thawing: This stage spans between 6 months and 2 years and is identified by the improvement in shoulder range of motion that eventually returns to normal shoulder function.

What are the symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

A classic sign of a frozen shoulder is the gradual development of symptoms that become more severe with time. It is also common for these symptoms to spontaneously resolve within a few years of onset. Some other common symptoms of a frozen shoulder include:

  • Shoulder joint stiffness accompanied by pain
  • Decreased shoulder range of motion and loss of strength
  • A dull ache that worsens with arm movement

How is a frozen shoulder diagnosed?

Dr. Patel will obtain a comprehensive medical history and include any prior shoulder injuries or any underlying health conditions that might contribute to symptoms. A thorough physical examination is then performed to evaluate for areas of pain, limited mobility, and the affected shoulder’s range of motion. Diagnostic imaging studies, such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be recommended to identify any additional damage to the shoulder joint structures.

What is the treatment for a frozen shoulder?

Non-surgical treatment:

Non-surgical therapies are often all that is needed for patients diagnosed with a frozen shoulder. Limiting or avoiding strengthening exercises and weight-bearing, particularly during the “frozen” stage, can aggravate the already painful and stiff shoulder. The pain and inflammation associated with this condition can be mitigated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). When appropriate, Dr. Patel will provide a set of daily stretching exercises that focus on improving the shoulder’s range of motion and/or offer physical therapy.

Surgical treatment:

When non-surgical therapy fails to alleviate the symptoms of a frozen shoulder, surgical intervention may be necessary to properly treat this condition. Dr. Patel accomplishes this through a minimally invasive surgical procedure involving a small camera (arthroscope) and specialized surgical instruments to remove any damaged tissue fragments. A “capsular release” procedure might also be performed involving the manual manipulation of the shoulder to stretch the shoulder capsule. Conducting a “capsular release” arthroscopically facilitates a more controlled and precise release of the shoulder capsule.

Frozen Shoulder Specialist

Are you experiencing shoulder stiffness with a decreased range of motion? If so, you may have a shoulder condition known as frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis. Females between the ages of 40 and 60 are more likely to develop frozen shoulder than men. Frozen shoulder specialist, Doctor Ronak Mukesh Patel,  provides diagnosis as well as surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for patients in Houston, Sugar Land, and Pearland, TX who are experiencing the symptoms of frozen shoulder. Contact Dr. Patel’s team today!