The Three Stages of a Frozen Shoulder and How to Recognize Them

A shoulder injury can seriously alter your life. Between accomplishing daily tasks, playing sports, and simply moving and sleeping comfortably, you rely on a full range of mobility in your upper arm, shoulder, and neck. But when shoulder pain and stiffness settle in, it can be frustrating, painful, or downright impossible to do what you’re used to doing.

If you’re experiencing shoulder immobility, there’s a chance you may be suffering from a frozen shoulder. This condition causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint, making movement very difficult for as long as a few years.

While frozen shoulder nearly immobilizes the shoulder for its duration, there are treatments that may improve your symptoms. The chiropractors at Advanced Spine and Posture may be able to help patients in Las Vegas, NV identify and potentially reduce their frozen shoulder symptoms.

What is frozen shoulder?

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder occurs when the connective tissues surrounding the shoulder joint – called the shoulder capsule – get inflamed and build scar tissue. This tissue gradually thickens and tightens around the joint, developing adhesions. This tightening is what causes the severe stiffness patients experience.

In many cases, frozen shoulder is a result of an injury that immobilizes the shoulder for a length of time. People with diabetes are also at a higher risk for developing frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder tends to affect women more often than men and most commonly occurs after the age of 40.

Recognizing the stages of frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder does not occur overnight. In fact, there is a somewhat long process that develops in the shoulder joint once the condition originates. Experts have separated the progression of frozen shoulder into three stages.

  1. Freezing: During the initial freezing stage, pain will gradually increase over the course of one to nine months. The shoulder will start to stiffen more and more as pain becomes more severe.
  2. Frozen: The second stage is when shoulder pain plateaus and may even decrease. Unfortunately, this is also when the shoulder is the stiffest, and mobility is severely limited. This stage can last another four to six months.
  3. Thawing: During the third stage, mobility in the shoulder gradually increases and pain typically decreases slowly. Eventually, both pain and mobility may return to normal, but every person will experience this differently. Full functionality may take up to three years to achieve.

Consider chiropractic for frozen shoulder

Although pain may resolve itself over time, both pain and stiffness due to frozen shoulder may be eased faster with treatment. Many doctors will recommend anti-inflammatory medication to ease pain symptoms; however, due to the long-term nature of the condition, taking medication may not be the most suitable route for patients experiencing frozen shoulder.

Instead, guided exercises and stretches may help improve mobility and reduce pain over time. Many patients have experienced improvements in their symptoms with routine stretching. At home, try to use your affected arm as much as possible to continue to stretch it out. Immobilizing the arm may actually make inflammation and stiffness worse.

Visiting a chiropractor may also help alleviate the symptoms of frozen shoulder. A chiropractor can lead you in these stretches and exercises to improve your mobility. Additionally, they may use an applied pressure technique on the joint to decrease your discomfort.

Having frozen shoulder may also cause neck and upper back pain. Doing day-to-day activities in a way that does not hurt your shoulder can put additional stress on your spine, and a chiropractor may be able to alleviate that pain in addition to helping you work through your frozen shoulder symptoms.

If you are feeling stiffness and pain in your shoulder, visit the chiropractic team at Advanced Spine and Posture in Las Vegas, NV. Our experts may be able to help determine if your pain is caused by frozen shoulder and provide treatment to potentially reverse symptoms using Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP), our chiropractic approach to total-body wellness.

Chiropractic BioPhysics, or CBP, is one of the most scientific, researched, and results-oriented corrective care techniques. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health, eliminating nerve interference and addressing the source of pain, fatigue, and disease. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is gentle, painless, and non-invasive.