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Frozen shoulder

Written by Caidr's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 21.12.2022 | 3 min read

Frozen shoulder is a condition characterised by pain and loss of movement of the shoulder. Otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a disorder affecting the lining of the shoulder joint which becomes inflamed and tightens.

Who gets frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder most commonly affects people aged 40-70 and around one in ten people will develop symptoms in the other shoulder within five to ten years. The cause of frozen shoulder is poorly understood. Broadly, there are two types of frozen shoulder.

Primary frozen shoulder is where the specific cause of the disorder is not known. Secondary frozen shoulder is where there is a known cause, this can be an injury or certain illnesses. Whilst the cause of primary frozen shoulder is not known, certain conditions are known to be associated with the risk of developing frozen shoulder. These include diabetes and certain autoimmune conditions.

When to see your doctor?

If you develop severe shoulder pain and stiffness following an injury you should seek medical attention sooner. If your shoulder pain and stiffness has come on very quickly or is associated with you feeling unwell, especially with a fever, you should seek urgent medical attention.

What will my doctor do?

The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. They may feel that you will benefit from an X-Ray to assess the shoulder joint for other causes of pain and stiffness. If a diagnosis of frozen shoulder is made, you may be offered tests to identify underlying associated conditions such as diabetes.

You may be referred to a physiotherapist in the first instance, depending upon local services available. If your symptoms fail to improve despite physiotherapy input or are very severe, you may be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. Additional hospital treatments that can be offered for frozen shoulder include injections or, very rarely, surgery to release tight tissue and possibly attempt to manipulate the shoulder. It is important to remember that in most cases an almost complete recovery can be expected without requiring any form of injection or surgery.

Related topics

Read about Rotator cuff tear

Read about Subacromial impingement

Read about Shoulder pain: when to do something about it

Read about Shoulder injury: prevention, treatment and recovery

Read about Shoulder problems in sports

Read about Arthroscopy (keyhole surgery)

Read about Bursitis

Read about Polymyalgia rheumatica

Read about Arthritis

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