What is frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder results from the gradual loss of movement in the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint. This joint consists of a ball (the humeral head) and socket (the glenoid). Normally it is one of the most mobile joints in the body. When the shoulder is frozen, the joint has become stuck and its movement is limited.
What causes frozen shoulder?
Although many shoulder diseases involve pain and loss of motion, frozen shoulder is most often caused by inflammation (swelling, pain and irritation) of the tissues surrounding the joint. The tissue that envelops the joint and holds it together is called the capsule. Normally the capsule has folds that can expand and contract as the arm moves into various positions. In a frozen shoulder, the capsule has become inflamed and scarring develops. The scar formations are called adhesions. As the capsule’s folds become scarred and tightened, shoulder movement becomes restricted and moving the joint becomes painful. This condition is called adhesive (scarring) capsulitis (inflammation of the capsule). It is not known exactly what causes this condition. Immobilization of the shoulder (after an arm injury, for instance) can lead to frozen shoulder. Inflammation of the muscles and/or tendons, as with rotator cuff tendinitis or bursitis, can also cause the shoulder joint to become frozen.
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Frozen shoulder symptoms
Range of motion fails, slowly and painfully, usually just on one side. Most patients first notice that they are having trouble reaching bra clasps, hip pockets, and back itches. The painful early stage mostly involves aching or burning deep in the shoulder joint, sometimes extending into the upper arm, often worst at night. Sudden movements can cause surges of much sharper and more extreme pain. Many frozen shoulder patients consider it the worst pain they’ve ever endured. Much more detail about symptoms to come.
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