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Pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in your shoulder may be the result of adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder. Women are more affected by this condition as compared to men and it usually shows up between the ages of 40 years and 60 years.

A frozen shoulder severely limits your shoulder’s ability to function. In most cases, frozen shoulder can be resolved with physical therapy and steroids injected into the shoulder joint. In a few cases, surgery is required to loosen the joint capsule, and allow free movement.

Three bones meet at the shoulder joint – the humerus or upper arm bone; the scapula, or shoulder blade; and the collarbone, or clavicle.

The humerus upper arm bone fits into your shoulder blade and is surrounded by the shoulder capsule, which is a collection of connective tissue. The synovial fluid lubricates movement of the bones and soft tissue in the joint.

With a frozen shoulder, this capsule of connective tissue grows thick and tight along with a reduction in synovial fluid.

Three phases of frozen shoulder

The limited range of movements at the shoulder develop gradually and occur in 3 separate phases –

  1. The shoulder freezes. You experience pain and the shoulder loses its range of motion. This phase may last from 6 weeks up to 9 months.
  2. When the shoulder is fully frozen, the pain may reduce, but your range of motion remains limited and stiffness persists. You would experience difficulty in carrying out daily activities for 4 to 6 months.
  3. A frozen shoulder may resume normal movement and strength in 6 months to 2 years.

There is a greater risk of developing frozen shoulder if you have diabetes, or other diseases such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, some cardiac diseases, and Parkinson’s disease.

An experienced pain specialist would review your symptoms and determine the cause of your shoulder pain and other symptoms. The pain from a frozen shoulder is usually a dull ache. You’ll experience the worst pain in the beginning, usually in the outer shoulder and sometimes in the upper arm. If you feel pain in your shoulder and diminished ability to move it in all directions, consult a pain specialist.