Adhesive capsulitis or “frozen shoulder” occurs in about 5 percent of the population. It typically affects people over 45 – and women more than men. The condition is characterized by stiffening or lessoned mobility of one or both of the shoulders.
There are typically four stages of frozen shoulder:
- Stage 1 – Pre-Freezing
- Stage 2 – Freezing
- Stage 3 – Frozen
- Stage 4 – Thawing
Pre-freezing – This is the onset of the condition. Symptoms may appear and develop over one or several months and worsen over time. The shoulder may ache when not in use, but there is usually discomfort with active movement. Mobility may be limited due to a natural tendency to “protect” the shoulder from pain, such as with raising the arm or reaching behind the body.
Freezing – Usually about three to nine months into the development of frozen shoulder, the sufferer has markedly increased pain during activity, progressive loss of motion, significant stiffness and pain occurring day and night (which can disrupt sleeping comfortably).
Frozen – After the freezing stage, pain may continue. At around nine to fourteen months, the intensity of pain may dissipate somewhat, but the shoulder is limited in motion and still causes pain more often just with use.
Thawing – Improvements with lessoned pain and greater range of motion are noticeable. Restoration of overhead movement and ease of typical daily activities may rapidly occur over the twelfth to fifteenth months since the onset of adhesive capsulitis.
Throughout the course of the condition, a physical therapist can provide non-invasive rehabilitation to help treat and restore motion. Next week: How Physical Therapy Can Help Relieve Adhesive Capsulitis