Signs You May Be Suffering From Frozen Shoulder

Adhesive Capsulitis, known commonly as frozen shoulder, is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the affected shoulder. Occurring more frequently in women than men, frozen shoulder is estimated to affect approximately two percent of the population, with the majority of the affected patients ranging in age from 40-60 years old. Hence the name, as many patients with frozen shoulder have difficulty moving the shoulder at all as the condition progresses.

The cause of frozen shoulder is not fully understood. While this condition can occur after an injury, in most cases there is no trauma prior to onset of frozen shoulder.

How Frozen Shoulder Occurs
In order to understand how frozen shoulder occurs, you must first have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the shoulder. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that is made up of the following three bones:

  • Upper arm bone (humerus)
  • Shoulder blade (scapula)
  • Collarbone (clavicle)


The head of the humerus fits into a socket in the shoulder blade. Shoulder capsule, which is a strong connective tissue, surrounds the shoulder joint and rotator cuff tendons. When frozen shoulder occurs, the shoulder capsule becomes inflamed and tight due to thickening, developing stiff bands of tissue known as adhesions.

Man with shoulder pain

3 Stages of Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder tends to develop in three stages, freezing, frozen, and thawing. Each of the three stages are explained below:

  1. Freezing. This is the first stage of frozen shoulder which usually begins with a slow increase in pain. This process can last anywhere from six weeks to nine months. As the pain intensifies, the shoulder loses range of motion.
  2. Frozen. During this second stage, the stiffness of the shoulder remains, yet painful symptoms may show improvement. This stage may last anywhere from four to six months.
  3. Thawing. The final stage in frozen shoulder is known as thawing. During this stage, the shoulder motion slowly improves. It may take anywhere from six months to two years for the shoulder to return to normal.

Signs Of Frozen Shoulder
The telltale sign of frozen shoulder is the inability to move the shoulder either on your own or with assistance. The pain associated with this condition can be both dull or aching and usually located over the front of the shoulder and sometimes the upper arm. Pain tends to be worse early in the course of the disease, during the freezing stage, and with movement of the arm. The pain may cause sleep interruption.


This blog post was originally published on South Shore Orthopedics' blog.