Frozen Shoulder : Symptoms, Risk, Causes & Diagnosis

Divya Tripathi

, Health A2Z

Frozen shoulder is a condition which affects your shoulder joint. Generally, it involves stiffness and pain that develops gradually, gets worse and then finally goes away. This process can take time from a year to 3 years.


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Your shoulder is a combination of three bones which form a ball-and-socket joint. These three bones are upper arm (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle). There’s also tissue shoulder capsule which surrounds your shoulder joint and holds everything together.


With the condition of the frozen shoulder, the capsule becomes so tight and thick which make it hard to move. Due to this, the bands of scar tissue form and there’s a loss of liquid called synovial fluid keep the joint lubricated. These things make the motion even more difficult.


What are the Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder?


This condition typically develops slowly, with these three stages. Each stage can stay even for months.


Freezing Stage.


In this stage the movement of your shoulder causes pain, and the range of shoulder’s motion becomes limited.


Frozen Stage.


Pain can start to decrease during this stage. But, your shoulder becomes stiffer, and using it becomes even more difficult.


Thawing Stage.


In this stage, the range of your shoulder’s motion improves.


What are the Causes of Frozen Shoulder?


Doctors aren’t sure about the exact cause why this happens to some people, but it’s more likely to occur in diabetic people or those who recently had to disable shoulder for a long period, like after surgery or an arm fracture.


What are the Risk factors of Frozen Shoulders?


Certain factors may increase your risk of developing a frozen shoulder.



  • People with the age 40 or older, particularly women, are more likely to have frozen shoulder.


  • Immobility or reduced mobility


  • Rotator cuff injury


  • Broken Arm



  • Recovery from surgery


  • Systemic diseases



People who have certain diseases appear more likely to develop a frozen shoulder. Diseases that might increase risk include:



  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)


  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)


  • Cardiovascular disease




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There is not any specific test for the diagnosis of a frozen shoulder, like an x-ray or MRI to confirm the condition. A diagnosis is made by noticing the range of motion of your shoulder. Here is how you can do it:


Stand in front of a mirror, or ask a friend or family member to observe your arm and shoulder movement. You or your friend should notice the quantity as well as the quality of your shoulder motion.


Frozen Shoulder : Symptoms, Risk, Causes & Diagnosis


Raise your both arms slowly in upward in front of you and overhead. If you have a frozen shoulder, your painful arm may only raise to just to parallel with the floor. Along with it, your shoulder blade will rise up unnaturally and your painful shoulder may move up to the direction of your ear.



Then, slowly move your arm out both of the sides, and observing the amount of motion that occurs. If your shoulder only goes up to just level with the floor, and if it is painful, then you can have a frozen shoulder. Your shoulder may also move towards the ear like in the previous motion test.



Lastly, stand with both arms at your side and keep your elbows bent to 90 degrees. While keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, move your arms out. This direction of rotation is called external rotation. If you have a frozen shoulder, the painful side will not rotate out as far as your non-painful arm.




Frozen Shoulder is a condition which freezes your shoulder for the duration of time. You can feel numbness, stiffness, and pain on your shoulder while movement. Don’t ignore the above symptoms and consult a doctor as soon as possible.


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