Frozen Shoulder: Cause & Symptoms

Frozen shoulder as its name suggests is a medical condition affecting the shoulder joint where it becomes swollen and stiff as though it is frozen. Our shoulder is a ball and socket joint designed for a wide range of motion and flexibility. Frozen shoulder is a condition that happens slowly over time and will also go away after a year. It may happen after injuries or diseases such as diabetes or stroke. Patients with frozen shoulder will have the formation of scar tissues in the shoulder capsule, causing it to thicken.

There is still no full understanding as to why frozen shoulder occurs. However, there are a few possible causes that are attributed to it:

Previous injury associated with shoulder

Patients who have had past shoulder injuries or surgeries such as a fracture or shoulder replacement may experience frozen shoulder. This is largely due to the post-recovery process requiring them to have large amounts of immobilization time. As a result, the shoulder capsule tightens over time and result in it freezing.


Patients who suffer from diabetes are twice as likely to develop frozen shoulder though the mechanism is still unknown. It could be due to the large buildup of collagen in the shoulder joint. Diabetic patients have large amount of glucose molecules in the body and these excess glucose will attach themselves to the collagen, causing them to stiffen up.

The most common and obvious symptom of frozen shoulder is persistence pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. Symptoms usually develop slowly over time, usually within a two year timeline.

There are three stages of frozen shoulder:

Pain stage – This is the initial stage where the shoulder will become slightly stiff and the pain increases when any movement is made on the shoulder. This will result in the reduced amount of motion in the shoulder, causing it to become worse. Pain will increase after periods of immobility such as after a sleep in the morning.

Frozen stage – This is the stage where the shoulder will become much stiffer and movement is almost impossible. Usually in this stage, pain does not increase nor go away. Patients will often feel that this is due to them getting used to the pain and they are usually resigned to a lifestyle requiring little use of their shoulder.

Thawing stage – This is the final stage where improvements are slowly seen. The pain in the shoulder will start to go away and shoulders will become less stiff. Patients will be able to move their shoulder much more than before.

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