December 1, 2023

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Signs of a Frozen Shoulder

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, you may already know the cause could be a number of things. It may be arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, or a condition known as frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder describes a specific type of problem within the shoulder joint.

Frozen Shoulder Explained

The shoulder joint contains a capsule filled with synovial fluid. The capsule is flexible, it can expand, and contract as needed with movement. The oil inside the capsule works similarly to the oil in a car’s motor. It keeps the joint well lubricated so it can move smoothly.

When an injury occurs, the capsule contracts. With less flexibility, any movement of the shoulder causes pain. In addition, some synovial fluid may leak out of the capsule, leaving you with less lubrication. These combined conditions—less flexibility and less lubrication—affect the range of motion, which leads to frozen shoulder.

How Do You Get a Frozen Shoulder?

This condition typically starts with a shoulder injury. If you have had a fracture or a repetitive-use injury, such as tendonitis in the rotator cuff, your physician probably recommended demobilization of the joint.

Weeks of wearing a sling or not moving the joint for other reasons can cause the shoulder to become stiff and “frozen.” Joint inflammation caused by illness or immune system problems may also cause frozen shoulder.

Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Knowing the early signs of a frozen shoulder is important. When caught in the early stages, treatment can prevent complete “freezing” and the pain, immobility, and long recovery that comes with it.

Signs to watch for include:

  • Pain in the upper arm
  • Inability to sleep or lie on the affected side
  • Stiffness in the shoulder joint
  • Pain in the shoulder when you move it
  • Dull, aching pain in shoulder, even when it is immobile
  • Pain that worsens at night

If treatment isn’t received during the early stage, the pain will progress over time. Movement of the shoulder will also continue to be limited until it is eventually immobile.

Once it is “frozen,” daily activities become difficult to perform without pain. Your shoulder might remain immobile for 4 to 12 months. Eventually, the condition begins to heal. Without treatment, it can take 6 to 24 months to regain full mobility.

Treatment for Frozen Shoulder

The vast majority of patients recover from frozen shoulder without the need for surgery. Physical therapy and pain medication are traditional treatments. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and stem cell therapy are showing promising potential in managing musculoskeletal injuries of all kinds, including frozen shoulder.

Studies have shown stem cells may decrease pain, promote faster healing and reduce the need for pain medication. It is a safe, low-risk procedure that may be especially effective in combination with other therapies.

This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for osteoarthritis, also known as stem cell therapy for Osteoarthritis. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.