The Mystery of Frozen Shoulder: Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatment Options

frozen shoulder

Have you ever experienced a persistent pain in your shoulder, along with stiffness that made it difficult to move? If so, you may have been dealing with a condition known as “frozen shoulder.” In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of frozen shoulder, explore its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options, and even touch upon the functional medicine perspective.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that affects the shoulder joint. It’s characterized by pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion, often leading to a significant reduction in the ability to move the arm. But why does it happen? The exact cause is still unknown, but it’s believed to involve inflammation and thickening of the shoulder joint’s capsule, which leads to the formation of scar tissue.

Who is at Risk?

Although anyone can develop frozen shoulder, certain factors increase the risk. For instance, individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 are more prone to this condition, with women being affected more often than men. Furthermore, people with diabetes, thyroid disorders, or those who have had prolonged immobility of the shoulder due to injury or surgery are also at an increased risk.


Frozen shoulder typically develops in three stages, each characterized by different symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at these stages:

Stage 1: Freezing

In this stage, you’ll gradually start experiencing pain in your shoulder, which may worsen over time. The pain can be mild or severe and can even disrupt your sleep. Along with the pain, you’ll notice a gradual decrease in your shoulder’s range of motion.

Stage 2: Frozen

During this stage, the pain may subside or remain constant, but the stiffness and limited range of motion become more pronounced. Daily activities such as reaching overhead or behind your back become increasingly difficult.

Stage 3: Thawing

In the final stage, the stiffness begins to improve, and the range of motion gradually returns to normal. This process can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years.


If you suspect that you’re dealing with frozen shoulder, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional. They will evaluate your medical history and perform a physical examination to assess your shoulder’s range of motion and identify any underlying causes. Imaging studies such as X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound may also be recommended to rule out other conditions that may mimic frozen shoulder symptoms.

Treatment Options

Now that we know what frozen shoulder is and how it’s diagnosed let’s discuss the various treatment options available:

Conservative Treatment

Typically, the initial approach to managing a condition involves conservative treatment. This approach may involve several strategies, such as using pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to manage discomfort and inflammation. Additionally, physical therapy may be recommended to improve range of motion and strength. Another component of conservative treatment may involve performing specific exercises at home to maintain flexibility and muscle tone.

Functional Medicine Approach

Functional medicine aims to address the root cause of the problem rather than just treating the symptoms. In the case of frozen shoulder, functional medicine practitioners may recommend dietary changes, supplementation, and stress management techniques to help reduce inflammation and promote overall joint health.

Corticosteroid Injections

For persistent pain and inflammation, your healthcare provider may recommend corticosteroid injections. These injections can provide temporary relief, but they should be used with caution as they may lead to adverse effects over time.

Joint Distension

In some cases, a procedure called joint distension may be recommended. This involves injecting sterile saline into the shoulder joint to help stretch the joint capsule and improve range of motion. Joint distension can provide significant relief for some individuals, but its effectiveness varies from person to person.

Manipulation Under Anesthesia (MUA)

For cases that don’t respond to conservative treatment, manipulation under anesthesia may be considered. During this procedure, the patient is sedated, and the healthcare professional gently manipulates the shoulder to break up scar tissue and improve range of motion. Although MUA can be effective, it carries some risks, such as joint dislocation or fracture.

Arthroscopic Capsular Release

In severe cases, a minimally invasive surgical procedure called arthroscopic capsular release may be recommended. This procedure involves using a small camera (arthroscope) and specialized instruments to remove scar tissue and release the tightened joint capsule.

FAQ Summary

1. **Is frozen shoulder caused by an injury?**
Although an injury can lead to frozen shoulder, it’s not the only cause. Other factors, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, or prolonged immobility, can also contribute to the development of this condition.

2. **Will frozen shoulder resolve on its own?**
Frozen shoulder can improve over time, but it’s essential to seek professional help and follow recommended treatment plans to expedite recovery and prevent complications.

3. **Can I exercise with a frozen shoulder?**
Yes, but it’s crucial to perform exercises under the guidance of a healthcare professional or physical therapist to ensure they are appropriate and do not exacerbate the condition.

4. **Is surgery the only option for frozen shoulder?**
Surgery is usually considered a last resort for frozen shoulder. In most cases, conservative treatments such as medication, physical therapy, and home exercises are effective.

5. **Can functional medicine help with it?**
Functional medicine can potentially help address the root causes of frozen shoulder, such as inflammation and underlying health conditions, by recommending dietary changes, supplementation, and stress management techniques.



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With the information provided in this article, you should now have a comprehensive understanding of frozen shoulder, including its symptoms, diagnosis, and various treatment options. We hope that this knowledge will help you make informed decisions about your shoulder health and guide you towards the appropriate course of action if you ever encounter this condition. Remember, it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice and recommendations.