10 Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

By nigel
Reviewed: Dr. Gromatzky
Article Sources Article Sources
Medical Expert Medical Expert

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a problem in which a person’s shoulder becomes stiff often. It’s actually a common problem that causes many people to experience decreased range of motion in their shoulders.

Many people mistake frozen shoulder for arthritis. While the two problems may share similar symptoms, they’re not medically related and have different causes. One of the main differences is that frozen shoulder, as the name implies, only affects the joints of the shoulder whereas arthritis can appear anywhere in the body.

Frozen shoulder, like arthritis, tends to occur more often as people get older. It is most likely to develop in people over the age of 40, and it’s more likely to strike women than men. If your shoulder has been going stiff lately and you’re wondering if you are suffering from frozen shoulder or arthritis, the following symptoms should help you make a better diagnosis. The symptoms are labeled so you can tell whether the symptoms are usually experienced before numbness sets in (Pre-Freeze) or afterwards (Post-Freeze). Once you’re more certain about which condition you have, you can go seek the proper treatment.

Symptom #1: Shoulder Pain (Pre-Freeze)

This pain tends to occur before the actual ‘frozen’ part of the condition. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, then it can be quite difficult to determine whether you have frozen shoulder or if you’ve simply overexerted yourself.

Pre-freeze pain is generally not too severe, and you can usually move your shoulder around in the early stages of frozen shoulder. The pain likely won’t be enough for you to seek treatment, but it’s important to make note of the pain if it lingers for a long time.

Frozen Shoulder

Symptom #2: Shoulder Pain (Post-Freeze)

Shoulder pain becomes more serious when you enter the stage of freezing, and it tends to get even more intense the more you move your shoulder.

Since the freezing stage can be so drawn out, lasting anywhere from 2 to 10 months, the symptoms tend to appear slowly and you might not realize that they are compounding. During the freezing stage the pain may linger when you’re not moving your shoulder, and it will definitely be more apparent when you are moving it.

Symptom #3: Intense Night Pain (Post-Freeze)

While you will probably experience some discomfort regardless of what time of day it is during the post-freeze stage, you will probably notice it more at night.

Pressure caused by lying down on the affected shoulder will increase the discomfort and pain. If you’re only experiencing the problem in one shoulder, make sure to sleep on the other side.

Frozen Shoulder

Symptom #4: Limited Mobility (During the Freezing Stage)

Limited mobility during the freezing stage is a sure sign that you’re suffering from frozen shoulder and not some other condition. If you don’t seek treatment by the time that you’re experiencing decreased mobility, the symptoms will continue to worsen.

If the condition has progressed to the freezing stage, then chances are you’ll have a pretty hard time reaching your full range of motion. You’ll feel stiff and you’ll find it difficult to finish some tasks that are usually easy for you.

Symptom #5: Varying Pain (Pre And Post-Freeze)

People suffering from frozen shoulder tend to experience fluctuating levels of pain that can make it difficult to determine how bad the condition is, especially in the pre-freeze stage.

When you enter the first part of the frozen stage, the pain generally decreases a little bit and people may think that the problem is getting better. However, if the condition isn’t treated, the pain often returns with a vengeance a month or two later.

Frozen Shoulder

Symptom #6: Stiffness (Pre And Post-Freeze)

Another common problem associated with frozen shoulder, and one of the main reasons it becomes hard to move your shoulder, is stiffness. During the first part of the frozen stage, the pain generally decreases.

However, the stiffness tends to increase. This means that you may not actually experience an improvement in your range of motion despite the decrease in pain. There are a number of shoulder stretches and exercises that can help minimize stiffness.

Symptom #7: Fading Pain (Post-Freeze)

As the condition begins to get better, sometimes referred to as the ‘thawing stage,’ you will probably notice a decrease in pain. If you haven’t fully determined that you have frozen shoulder by this time, the decreasing pain may be an indication that the problem is going away.

However, since the pain is variable at all stages of the problem, this may not mean that it’s getting better. You should still take care to use your shoulders lightly.

Frozen Shoulder

Symptom #8: Regaining Range of Motion

This is one of the best parts of the whole experience of frozen shoulder: an increase in range of motion during the thawing phase as your shoulder returns to its original state. As the condition begins to fade away, you will notice a decrease in stiffness, pain, and discomfort. You will probably be able to begin doing activities that you had to postpone.

Keep in mind that the condition of frozen shoulder lasts a long time as it slowly fades. If you wake up one morning feeling like you can swing your arms around without any symptoms you should be careful – over-exerting yourself at this stage can cause the pain to return.

Symptom #9: Tenderness

While tenderness doesn’t occur in everyone suffering from frozen shoulder, many people do experience some degree of tenderness.

Tenderness is different than pain in the sense that it doesn’t necessarily make itself known unless there is pressure being applied to the area. Tenderness can occur during any phase of the problem, though it is most likely to occur during the pre-freeze and post-freeze stages.

Symptom #10: Lingering Symptoms

In most cases of frozen shoulder, the symptoms tend to fade away slowly. However, some people may experience lingering or fluctuating symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms will fade for a while, leading someone to think that they’re in the thawing phase, only to return shortly after.

If the symptoms persist for many, many months or years, you may need to undergo surgery to treat the problem. There are two types of surgery that can be useful for treating frozen shoulder: manipulation and arthroscopic capsular release. Both kinds of surgeries are performed by a surgeon while you’re anesthetized.

Frozen Shoulder

Home | Privacy Policy | Editorial | Unsubscribe | | About Us

This site offers information designed for entertainment & educational purposes only. With any health related topic discussed on this site you should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, treatment, advice, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, treatment, or diagnosis. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.