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The Three Stages of Frozen Shoulder

The Three Stages of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition that’s characterized by increasing inflammation in your shoulder joint. Also called adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder gradually restricts your mobility, eventually making your shoulder very stiff and painful.

It’s not clear what causes frozen shoulder, but it most commonly affects women between the ages of 40-60. Frozen shoulder is also a common complication of diabetes, and up to 36% of people with diabetes also develop frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder follows three distinct stages, and it can be debilitating. Although there’s no cure, it eventually starts getting better on its own, and it’s possible to regain full shoulder mobility again.

At Manhattan Orthopedics, our team specializes in diagnosing and managing frozen shoulder. Physical therapy can help you maintain your range of motion throughout the duration of the condition, while other treatments, like cortisone injections, can help relieve pain.

If you’ve noticed your shoulder suddenly feeling stiff and painful, now is the time to learn more about the stages of frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder stage 1: freezing

The first stage of frozen shoulder is the freezing stage. You start noticing shoulder pain and stiffness that gets increasingly worse over time. Although frozen shoulder may be triggered by arm immobilization after surgery, there’s no clear cause in most cases. Stage 1 may last anywhere from six weeks to nine months.

During stage 1, goals of treatment include protecting your shoulder mobility and minimizing pain. Regular physical therapy can help you maintain the ability to move your arm and reduce pain with everyday activities. If your pain is severe, cortisone injections may be an option to relieve pain.

Frozen shoulder stage 2: frozen

The second stage of frozen shoulder is the frozen stage. In many cases, pain dissipates during this stage, but joint stiffness and restricted mobility remains. You may have difficulty moving your arm and performing daily tasks. Stage 2 typically lasts four to six months.

During stage 2, your treatment plan may include physical therapy to stretch and strengthen your shoulder, chest, and back muscles. Physical therapy in stage 2 can help you avoid complications like inflammation and muscle atrophy.

Frozen shoulder stage 3: thawing

The third and final stage of frozen shoulder is the thawing stage. After a period of very limited shoulder mobility, you begin to notice increasing range of motion. Pain may continue decreasing as your shoulder returns to normal or almost normal. Stage 3 may last six months to two years.

Orthopedic treatment during stage 3 can help you return to your usual activities more quickly. Physical therapy helps you restore shoulder flexibility and muscle strength to reduce pain and minimize your risk of lasting complications.

Frozen shoulder can start suddenly and quickly interfere with your quality of life. If you’ve noticed new or worsening shoulder pain and stiffness, schedule an exam with our team at Manhattan Orthopedics. Contact one of our offices in Astoria, Brooklyn, or Manhattan, New York. You can call us or request an appointment online now.

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