The 3 Stages of Frozen Shoulder

What are the 3 stages of frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis?

As a particularly important joint of the body, the shoulder seems to be prone to more than its share of a myriad of different aches, pains, injuries, and conditions. But, considering how much we use it in everyday life, these infirmaries are only made that much more noticeable when we can’t easily go about our day without pain or discomfort. Frozen shoulder, however, is a particularly nasty condition to develop out of all the shoulder maladies out there due to the amount of time it affects the body – talk about a disruption of daily life.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder – or adhesive capsulitis, as it’s sometimes called – affects approximately 2% of the general population, which, at first, doesn’t seem all that common, but that’s 158 million people documented. It’s most common in women aged 40-70, and is often associated with pre-existing medical conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Cardiac Disease
  • Previous Injury
  • Prior Extended Periods of Shoulder Immobilization

This condition is trademarked by stiffness and loss of mobility in the shoulder, even by external means, such as someone else attempting to gauge mobility. This loss of motion is caused by the thickening and tightening (contracture) of the connective tissue called the shoulder joint capsule, and unfortunately does not have a definitive cure or comprehensive treatment that makes the condition go away immediately.

In fact, the best frozen shoulder treatment option available outside of short-term prescription pain medication is physical therapy, which can be either home sessions or professionally guided ones. Orthopaedic Specialists has a program for you, so contact us today at 502-212-2663 and let us help you in your management of this long-term condition or to prevent it after a shoulder injury.

The 3 Stages of Frozen Shoulder

One of the most unique facets about frozen shoulder, however, is that it comes in stages, and these stages each last for a time period that varies greatly between cases. Most cases present an increasing time period by order of stage, so that stage one is shorter than stage two, which is shorter than stage three.

Stage 1: The Freezing Stage

In this stage, the shoulder joint capsule is beginning to thicken and stiffen, causing increasing levels of pain and a decreasing range of motion. The time frame for this stage has been documented lasting anywhere from 6 weeks to 9 months, with most cases falling between the earlier 6-9 weeks period.

Stage 2: The Frozen Stage

In the stage after freezing, the frozen stage plateaus the thickening and stiffening of the capsule, leaving the shoulder with very little motion, but less pain. This loss of motion, however, makes daily activities extremely difficult, and physical therapy is of great importance at this stage to make sure you can manage your condition and minimize the effect it has on your life. This stage lasts approximately 4-9 months, with most cases thankfully clocking in again at the earlier periods, between 4-6 months.

Stage 3: The Thawing Stage

In the final stage of frozen shoulder, there comes the ‘thaw.’ This is where there is a return to previous strength and motion – either to a complete degree or one close to it. Physical therapy is perhaps most important in this stage, when motion is returning where muscle was lost, and the joint is both susceptible to injury and healing. This stage has been documented over a range of 5 months to 3 years, but most cases are contained to a 6 month-2 year scope.

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, can be a very scary thing to deal with, especially following an injury if you thought you were in the clear. Physical therapy can help shorten the time frame your stages last and get you returned to your prior status with healthy, resilient shoulders. Call us here at Orthopaedic Specialists today!

If you or someone you love has suffered a shoulder injury or has experience frozen shoulder in the Louisville, Kentucky-area, board certified physician Dr. Stacie Grossfeld at Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC can help. Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC is accepting new patients, and same day appointments are available. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC today at 502-212-2663.