Frozen shoulder is a condition that leads to pain and stiffness of the shoulder. It is also known as adhesive capsulitis or shoulder contracture.
The symptoms tend to gradually get worse over a number of months or years. You will typically experience shoulder pain for the first two to nine months, followed by increasing stiffness.
The stiffness may affect your ability to carry out everyday activities and, in severe cases, you may not be able to move your shoulder at all.
The condition may improve with time, but this can sometimes take several years.
When to see your GP
You should visit your GP if you have persistent shoulder pain that limits your movement.
The earlier frozen shoulder is diagnosed, the more likely it is that treatment can help prevent long-term pain and stiffness.
What causes frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder occurs when the flexible tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint, known as the capsule, becomes inflamed and thickened. It is not fully understood why this happens.
The following can increase your risk of developing a frozen shoulder:
a previous shoulder injury or shoulder surgery
Dupuytren’s contracture (a condition where small lumps of thickened tissue form in the hands and fingers)
other health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke
It is estimated that up to 1 in 20 people in the UK may be affected by frozen shoulder at some point in their life. Most people who get frozen shoulder are between the ages of 40 and 60. The condition is more common in women than men.
How frozen shoulder is treated
Most people with frozen shoulder will eventually get better, even without treatment. However, appropriate treatment can help reduce pain and improve the movement in your shoulder until it heals.
The type of treatment you receive will depend on how severe your frozen shoulder is and how far it has progressed.
Painkillers, corticosteroid injections, shoulder exercises and physiotherapy are all possible treatment options. If your symptoms have not improved after six months, surgery may be recommended. activity that involves placing repeated strain on your elbow joint, such as tennis, changing your technique may alleviate the problem.