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Understanding Frozen Shoulder

If you feel nagging pain and stiffness in your shoulder, you may have frozen shoulder. This problem is also referred to as adhesive capsulitis. It is not well understood. But it often improves over time with treatment.

Symptoms of frozen shoulder

The first symptom you may have is shoulder pain. You may feel as if you’ve injured your shoulder. Other symptoms you may have include:

  • Increased shoulder pain as you move your arm

  • Shoulder stiffness that makes it hard to get daily tasks done

  • Shoulder pain that keeps you from sleeping

  • An arm that you can’t raise or rotate beyond a certain point

Front view of shoulder joint with muscles showing a contracted capsule and contracted ligament.

Who develops frozen shoulder?

The cause of frozen shoulder is not well understood. Women are more likely than men to have frozen shoulder. This problem also happens more often in women who are at least in their 40s. In some cases, people who have injured their shoulder may later develop frozen shoulder. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, Parkinson and cardiac disease can also increase someone's risk for frozen shoulder.

When you have frozen shoulder

Your shoulder is a joint that is made up of many parts. They help you raise, rotate, and swing your arm. But if you have frozen shoulder, certain parts of your shoulder joint contract (shrink and pull in). This often causes pain and stiffness when you try to move your arm.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph, Thomas N., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Larson, Kim APRN, FNP
Date Last Reviewed: 10/14/2015
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