If you’ve heard about frozen shoulder—also known as adhesive capsulitis—you know it’s no fun. A frozen shoulder has lost its normal range of motion and causes pain. The condition can last for several months, and people living with it should know these 5 things:
1. You might get tendonitis
Frozen shoulder tends to pull the rounded head of the humerus (upper arm bone) further into its socket. People with frozen shoulder may notice that the affected arm appears just a tiny bit shorter than the other. The tendons in the arm can become stressed trying to compensate for this change, resulting in tendonitis or another tendinopathy. Avoiding painful movements, gentle stretching, and physical therapy can help relieve tendonitis symptoms.
2. …And neck pain
Day-to-day movements, like washing hair, putting on jerseys, or sleeping in positions that don’t cause more shoulder pain, may strain the neck. Over time, the neck may become stiff or painful. Regular stretching and massage can help relieve neck tension.
3. You should use your affected arm
Resting the affected arm does not help the shoulder heal. In fact, medical professionals say that resting the shoulder may make the condition worse by allowing more adhesions to develop around the shoulder capsule. In addition, using the shoulder helps maintain muscle strength, which can prevent additional problems later on.
So, it may be a little uncomfortable to keep both hands on the steering wheel or reach up into the cupboard, but if you can do it without triggering pain, try it.
4. Hormones matter
Women in their 40s and 50s are at a higher risk to get frozen shoulder. Many women have reported cases of frozen shoulder that coincided with perimenopause, menopause or the start or end of hormone replacement therapy.
5. The shoulder may not regain its full range of motion
Medical experts refer to frozen shoulder as a “self-limiting” condition, meaning it will eventually go away on its own. However, people with frozen shoulder may not regain their full range of motion. They may also notice that their affected shoulder still pops up a little higher than the other shoulder when they raise their arms over their head.
After several months of shoulder pain and severely restricted movement, many people are simply glad to have an “almost normal” shoulder. But long-term affects are no doubt disappointing and frustrating. People who want to try to regain 100% range of motion can talk to their doctors or physical therapists to find out if additional therapies can help.