Frozen Shoulder

Pain and restriction of movement in the shoulder joint

  • More common over the age of 40
  • More common in females
  • Genetics and lifestyle are not significant factors

Pain and stiffness in a shoulder joint, severely restricting its movement, is known as frozen shoulder. The condition may be due to inflammation resulting from an injury to the shoulder region. Frozen shoulder can also sometimes occur if the shoulder is kept immobilized for a long period of time, such as following a stroke. However, in many cases, frozen shoulder develops for no apparent reason. The condition occurs most frequently in people over the age of 40 and is more common in women. People who have diabetes mellitus are more susceptible to the condition.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of frozen shoulder often begin gradually over a period of weeks or months. They may include:

  • Pain in the shoulder, which is severe in the early stages of the condition and is often worse at night.

  • With time, gradually decreasing pain but increasing stiffness and restricted joint movement.

  • In severe cases, pain travelling down the arm to the elbow.

If you have pain in the shoulder that lasts for more than a few days, you should consult your doctor.

What might be done?

Your doctor will probably diagnose frozen shoulder from the symptoms and an examination of your shoulder. A painkiller or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug may be prescribed to relieve the discomfort and reduce inflammation.

If the pain persists or is severe, you may be given a corticosteroid drug by means of a direct injection into the shoulder joint (see Locally acting corticosteroids). You may also be referred for physiotherapy. Despite these measures, your shoulder may remain stiff for up to about a year.

Even when the stiffness has disappeared, recovery is usually slow and may take up to a further 6 months.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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