Early Signs of a Frozen Shoulder

Musculoskeletal pain of any kind makes you feel older than you are, restricts your mobility, and lessens your quality of life if it becomes chronic.

Do You have shoulder pain? You're probably wondering exactly what's causing it. Is it arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, frozen shoulder, or something else? There’s quite a laundry list of ailments that can affect your shoulder. 

Dr. Matthew Pifer, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, sees many patients with shoulder pain and sorts out the correct diagnosis and treatment with a battery of tests. 

What is a frozen shoulder? 

Frozen shoulder is a condition that causes limited range of motion as well as inflammation and pain in the joint.

A pouch in your shoulder (called the joint capsule) is full of a liquid called synovial fluid. It’s flexible and is able to expand and contract with movement. The fluid is like the oil in your car; it helps keep your joints lubricated so it moves smoothly and without pain. 

If the shoulder is injured, the capsule begins to contract. Your shoulder bone doesn’t have as much room to rotate, and it hurts to move your shoulder. It begins to “freeze” so you don’t have a full range of motion.

As a result of injury and inflammation, the joint may lose some of its synovial fluid. If left untreated, scar tissue develops between the capsule and the top of the shoulder bone, further reducing the ability to move your shoulder. The technical name for the frozen shoulder is adhesive capsulitis. 

What are the early signs of a frozen shoulder? 

You definitely want to treat the frozen shoulder early so that it doesn’t “freeze” completely, leaving you with little ability to move your arm. Following are early signs of the condition: 

Why did I get a frozen shoulder? 

Frozen shoulder often begins with a shoulder injury. It could be an acute injury like a fracture or an overuse injury like rotator cuff tendonitis or bursitis. When your shoulder hurts from either type of injury, you’re not moving it very much. Perhaps it’s been in a sling. It can become stiff, and a frozen shoulder can set in. 

If your immune system is compromised from an illness, you may be more prone to joint inflammation which can lead to a frozen shoulder. If you have diabetes, you’re at significant risk of frozen shoulder. 

Treating a frozen shoulder 

Dr. Pifer has several good tools to use to treat your frozen shoulder. The good news is that more than nine in 10 patients recover from the frozen shoulder without having to resort to surgery. 

Pain medication, injections to calm the inflammation, and physical therapy are standard treatments for frozen shoulders. In addition, Dr. Pifer offers platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy which has shown great promise in treating musculoskeletal injuries. 

Contact the office of Dr. Matthew Pifer for an appointment for proper diagnosis and state-of-the-art treatment of your shoulder pain today. 

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