Occasionally, I hear the term “frozen shoulder” from patients as they self-diagnose a shoulder that hurts and has limited movement.
However, there are certain characteristics that distinguish frozen shoulder from other types of shoulder injury that may result in soreness or restricted movement.
The medical term for frozen shoulder is “shoulder adhesive capsulitis,” a condition that affects about two per cent of the general population from 40 to 75 years of age. It is found more commonly in women (70 per cent) and has been shown to be correlated with diabetes, hypothyroidism, stroke, heart attack and sedentary occupations.
Frozen shoulder is characterized by a progressive and painful loss of movement.
It can be caused by repetitive overuse tendon injury, which can occur when working with your arms above your head for prolonged periods; a trauma that results in prolonged immobilization such as a broken arm; or even a consequence of a cardiac or neurological episode such as heart attack or stroke.
Common characteristics of a frozen shoulder include pain at night, discomfort lying on the affected side and loss of movement at the shoulder. A unique movement limitation pattern found in frozen shoulder follows what is known as a “capsular pattern,” which is a sequence of movements that indicate the problem is inside the joint. Those with frozen shoulder will also have marked reduction in all movements, especially rotating the arm to perform tasks such as throwing a Frisbee or making a snow angel motion.