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Frozen Shoulder: Essential Info, Signs & Symptoms

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

If you’ve ever experienced frozen shoulder, then you know this is no muscle cramp. Frozen shoulder can be an extremely uncomfortable condition. It sometimes occurs in orthopedic patients whose shoulder injuries have caused the shoulder to be immobilized for a period of time.

While frozen shoulder is most common in individuals with diabetes (for reasons unknown), it can also affect very active adults. A collarbone fracture that requires surgery, for example, may force a patient to keep their arm still a period of time, creating an opportunity for frozen shoulder to develop.

Signs & Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Since frozen shoulder does occur in about one in 50 adults, it is worth knowing the signs and symptoms. If you experience these symptoms, talk to you primary care provider or Houston orthopedic physician.

  • Freezing Stage: At this point, range of motion becomes limited and any shoulder motion can cause pain.
  • Frozen Stage: During this stage, pain may lessen, but the shoulder’s mobility is reduced even more.
  • Thawing Stage: In the thawing stage, range of motion begins to improve.

Sometimes the pain gets worse at night and can even disrupt sleep.

How Your Houston Orthopedic Doctor Diagnoses Frozen Shoulder

At Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics, patients with frozen shoulder symptoms will undergo a physical exam that will include checking the range of motion. Our team may then ask you to relax your arm while we move it. (This is testing for the shoulder’s “passive range of motion.”) Signs and symptoms are oftentimes sufficient for a diagnosis, but sometimes your provider may need to perform an MRI or x-ray to rule out other potential problems.

Treating Frozen Shoulder In Houston

The goal of frozen shoulder treatment is typically to provide pain relief, preserve range of motion, and then recover lost range of motion. Basic over-the-counter NSAIDs may provide pain and inflammation relief. For some cases, steroid injection may be used. A corticosteroid injection may help decrease pain and increase lubrication in the shoulder joint. (Learn more about steroid injections, how they work and their pros and cons.) Surgery is rarely necessary for treating frozen shoulder.

As for home care, continue to use the shoulder as much as you can in order to preserve your range of motion. Alternating heat and cold on the shoulder can also help with pain.

Schedule With a Houston Orthopedic Doctor

Have questions about frozen shoulder? Schedule with a Houston orthopedic physician by calling (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.