Getting snubbed by a “cold shoulder” can be hurtful, but frozen shoulder can bring much more pain. Learn about what it involves and how to recover.

What is frozen shoulder?

Known officially in medicine as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is characterized by pain, reduced flexibility, and limited range of motion. If left untreated, the shoulder gradually becomes more rigid and uncomfortable.

This form of shoulder pain strikes approximately one in every 50 Americans. Typically patients diagnosed with frozen shoulder are women in their 40s or 50s.

How the shoulder works

The shoulder consists of three bones – the clavicle, scapula, and humerus – that meet in a ball-and-socket joint. It also includes the ligaments and tendons that support the joint. “The head of the upper arm bone fits into a shallow socket in your shoulder blade,” explains the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Strong connective tissue, called the shoulder capsule, surrounds the joint.”

There is also synovial fluid within the joint and shoulder capsule to keep everything lubricated and moving smoothly.


Generally speaking, frozen shoulder develops over the course of several months. The stages of damage and recovery are as follows:

1.    Freezing – Shoulder pain arises any time you use the joint, and it begins feeling stiffer.

2.    Frozen – You may not feel as much pain when your shoulders in the true frozen state, but range of motion continues to decline .

3.    Thawing – The joint becomes more mobile and less excruciatingly painful.


If the capsule that encompasses the shoulder grows thicker, it makes it difficult for the shoulder to move, resulting in frozen shoulder.

It’s unclear to researchers exactly why some individuals are more susceptible to this condition. However, it’s clear that certain risk factors, such as diabetes and surgical recovery, make it likelier to occur.

Risk factors

Risk factors for this shoulder pain condition include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic:

·      Sex & age – As noted above, frozen shoulder is more commonly experienced by women than men. Patients are also typically 40+ years old.

·      Immobilization – Frozen shoulder is often a problem for people whose shoulders are immobilized by fractures, surgical recovery, stroke, or rotator cuff damage.

·      Serious diseases – If you are already suffering from certain chronic diseases – such as heart disease, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes – you are more vulnerable to frozen shoulder.

Thawing your frozen shoulder

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