A frozen shoulder develops in three stages:
Frozen shoulder usually affects one shoulder, but in about one in five people it’s both.
It can sometimes be confused with arthritis but is very different.
Symptoms vary from person to person. You may still have flexibility in your shoulder. However, in some cases, your shoulder may be so stiff that movement is practically impossible.
Symptoms of frozen shoulder include:
If the pain in your shoulder doesn’t go away, you should see your GP. They may be able to diagnose frozen shoulder from a discussion about your symptoms and a physical examination. This could include trying some simple exercises to show how much movement you still have in your shoulder.
Your GP may also arrange a blood test to check for other conditions. An X-ray, MRI scan or ultrasound scan may also be arranged to rule out arthritis or a tendon injury.
Often it’s not clear exactly what causes frozen shoulder, although it can result from an injury or an operation. However, you’re more likely to be affected if you:
The usual treatment for frozen shoulder is a combination of physiotherapy, including frozen shoulder exercises, and painkillers, such as ibuprofen. Hot or cold packs can also help.
In some cases, your doctor may advise you to have a joint injection with steroids to reduce the inflammation and improve your symptoms.
Not everyone wants treatment for frozen shoulder. You may prefer to wait for it to get better by itself.