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The Cold Facts about a Frozen Shoulder

Q: What is a “Frozen Shoulder” and how is it treated?

When it is healthy, the shoulder’s ball and socket joint is the “most mobile” joint in the body. Encapsulated in tissue rich with lubricating fluid, this juncture of bones, tendons, muscles, and cartilage normally works like a well-oiled machine. But certain conditions or injuries can interfere with its normal wide range of motion and cause Adhesive Capsulitis, a condition commonly referred to as “Frozen Shoulder”.

Although it has nothing whatsoever to do with temperature or the cold, its symptoms typically progress in three stages known as freezing, frozen, and thawing. Initially, there is pain in the joint when it’s moved and the range of motion is limited. Then, pain diminishes somewhat but the joint becomes stiffer and even harder to move in the “frozen” stage. Thawing happens over time once pain resolves and range of motion improves.

Frozen Shoulder can be injury-related, often following a trivial event, or, more commonly, the stiffness and pain can arise without any injury and progress insidiously. Frozen Shoulder is occasionally associated with certain risk factors such as diabetes and thyroid disorders for reasons that are poorly understood. Frozen Shoulder typically occurs most often in women between 40 and 60 years of age.

Frozen Shoulder can be resolved through non-operative treatment options in over 90% of cases, but the treatment may require 3-4 months of treatment. Patients who do not improve after 4 months of non-operative treatment are candidates for shoulder manipulation and arthroscopic release of scar tissue which is successful in over 90% of patients.

There are also Ortho Biologics–newer therapies– including stem cell therapy that show great promise. What role, if any, “the strong anti-inflammatory properties of stem cells combined with the lubrication ability of hyaluronate [fat] injections” may play in Frozen Shoulder recovery treatment remains to be seen as more clinical trials and reliable scientific studies are done.

If you are experiencing Frozen Shoulder symptoms such as limited or diminished range of motion and/or shoulder joint pain, call Peter D. McCann, M.D. at 212-844-6735 for an appointment to have your condition properly evaluated.

For over 30 years, Peter McCann, MD has specialized in the treatment of shoulder and elbow injuries and conditions. Highly regarded for providing personalized service to his patients, Dr. McCann is Director, Orthopedic Surgery and Orthopedic Strategic Initiatives at Lenox Health Greenwich Village, a division of Northwell Health, and holds the academic title of Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. If you have been diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, are experiencing arm or shoulder pain or have questions about any of our services, we invite you to schedule a consultation using our convenient online form by clicking here.

Posted in: Frozen Shoulder


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