Frozen shoulder has no known cause – it has, however, been proven to be more common in diabetics. Some research has revealed that frozen shoulder has also been related to a traumatic event, not necessarily to the shoulder in question, but a traumatic event either physical or psychological (weird!)
Also named Adhesive Capsulitis, it’s essentially just that, whereby the shoulder capsule surrounding the ball of the joint adheres to the ball (or humeral head), creating a lack of movement. The lack of movement demonstrated in this condition is in several planes of movement of the shoulder.
The frozen shoulder usually lasts about 9-12 months. It is broken down into 3 phases that generally last 3-4 months but this pattern is vague and the rate of progress varies remarkably between individuals.
The first phase is predominantly pain – where the patient cannot find a comfortable position and ROM is mildly restricted.
The second phase is painful and very stiff – where the pain may have receded a little from first phase but ROM is severely restricted in the capsular pattern.
The third phase is most stiff – where the pain subsides a lot and the range of movement slowly returns.
Eventually the shoulder recovers, that is it’s is a self-limiting problem.
On ultrasound you may see some fluid in the biciptial sheath of the long head of biceps but otherwise the frozen shoulder is relatively hard to diagnose via investigation. The best way to diagnose is symptomatically and historically.
Physio can help ease the pain in the first two stages and then help speed up the recovery of movement in the third phase. The neck usually needs to be treated in the case of frozen shoulder as it will often become tight and achy due to the protective nature of the body. It is good practice to maintain surrounding muscle strength even with limited range of movement; therefore your physio will show you exercises that you can continue whilst recovering from frozen shoulder.