How Long Does it Take to Recover from a Frozen Shoulder?

If you are feeling any pain when moving or using your shoulder, you may be experiencing what is known as a “frozen shoulder” or “adhesive capsulitis.” Pain in the upper most outside of the arm is often followed by stiffness and a steady loss of movement that can limit day to day activities and tasks. 

In the case of a frozen shoulder, movement is limited not only because of the pain experienced but because tissue has hardened around the shoulder capsule causing it to literally be stuck. 

A shoulder’s capsule is basically strong connective tissue that surrounds the joint of your shoulder’s blade socket and rotator cuff tendons. When this joint becomes inflamed, scar tissue forms and hardens making the shoulder stiff.

There are 3 stages of a frozen shoulder:

  • Freezing
  • Frozen
  • Thawing

During the first stage, one feels a gradual amount of pain and limited range of motion. The second stage brings on less pain, but no movement as the shoulder is effectively frozen in place. By stage three, the patient is beginning to regain strength and movement. However, this whole process can be very time consuming. Freezing may take anywhere from 6 to 9 months, and it could remain frozen for an additional 4 to 6 months. Recovery has been known to take as little as 6 months and as many as 2 years or more. 

While there is much debate around the cause of adhesive capsulitis, it has often resulted from prolonged periods of immobilization due to surgery. Injuries that restrict arm movement, such as a torn rotator cuff or bone fracture are also possible culprits.

Treating a Frozen Shoulder

When it comes to treating a frozen shoulder, time and physical therapy are the best healers. Consistent stretching will eventually unlock the shoulder. That being said, anti-inflammatory medicine and steroid cortisone injections can offer short term relief. Both have been known to reduce pain and swelling around the area.  

If these treatment options are not successful, surgery can be preformed to manipulate the scar tissue and capsule so that they are not restricting mobility. This is usually done during stage two, otherwise known as the “frozen” period. The recovery time for frozen shoulder surgery ranges from 6 weeks to 3  months. 

It is possible that a frozen shoulder can reoccur. To ensure you are able to fully regain mobility of your shoulder, those who are experiencing severe stiffness should consult with an orthopedic specialist. An experienced orthopedic physician can demonstrate the proper exercises and set you on the path to a long lasting recovery. 

If your frozen shoulder symptoms persist, contact Dr. Stacie Grossfeld.  With over 25 years of experience in orthopedic medicine, Dr. Grossfeld has extensive knowledge surrounding shoulder injuries and rehabilitation. If you are in the Louisville or Kentuckiana area and are suffering from frozen shoulder, contact Orthopaedic Specialists today at 502-212-2663.