Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, to give it its correct medical term, is an invalidating, painful condition which affects the shoulder area. Patients often wonder, “what are the first signs of frozen shoulder”, when they begin having feelings of a “blocked” shoulder with limited movement and pain.

In normal conditions the shoulder, thanks to its particular anatomical conformity, is flexible in movement and allows many, varied movements. However, when a person is affected by frozen shoulder, fluidity of movement and elasticity is lost and the pain can be acute.

First Signs of Frozen Shoulder

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Usually the first signs of frozen shoulder are pain, which can often be sudden and very acute, and some restricted movement because of the pain.  A high percentage of patients report the pain as 10 out of 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Clinically this condition is known to have 3 phases:

  • Stage 1 – pain – usually acute and can be sudden
  • Stage 2 – reduction in movement, stiffness and loss of elasticity
  • Stage 3 – resolution stage

As mentioned above, the first signs of frozen shoulder start with pain around the shoulder area. It is often more noticeable when lying down at night and especially if the patient is lying on the affected side.  There might be short, sharp bursts of pain, usually at the front part of the shoulder. The patient might start to notice pain when doing particular movements where even the most basic movements, such as the simple act of brushing one’s hair, brings pain and discomfort.

The next phase of rigidity and stiffness leads to reduction in movement of the shoulder and arm. This can result in not being able to move the arm nor even raise it slightly. This phase can last for anything from 48 hours to 4 weeks and in some cases months, and even years! The stiffness, and associated pain, may mean the patient not being able to work, drive or look after themselves because restriction in movement and pain means even the most basic day to day tasks are impossible to carry out.

The third phase mentioned is the resolution stage, where the process of recovery is initiated. It should be noted that the sooner this phase is started the better, and quicker the response time to treatment. It is recommended that people with symptoms of frozen shoulder see a shoulder surgeon upon noticing the first symptoms to find out if capsulitis shoulder treatment is needed.

There are several methods which can be adopted.

  1. Medicine in the form of cortisone / steroids taken either orally or by injection.
  2. Physiotherapy can be started when the pain has been alleviated somewhat. It includes stretching exercises and massages, which help increase the blood circulation to the injured area. Using physical therapy exercises which are challenging, but which do not induce pain, is a very effective way of treating moderate to severe symptoms of frozen shoulder.
  3. Heat therapy (thermotherapy) which can help the muscles relax and also relieves pain.

It is advisable to act quickly when you start experiencing the first signs of frozen shoulder. The quicker you seek help the better the outcome of recovery and recovery speed. An exercise plan should be followed to help alleviate the pain. Make an appointment to see a shoulder surgeon who can assess the gravity of your condition and put in place restorative and preventative measures to slow down deterioration. If you’ve ever wondered, “what are the first signs of frozen shoulder”, we hope you have a better idea now! The best solution to help speed up recovery is by using a combination of the three above mentioned criteria in a planned therapeutic program put together by your shoulder surgeon.