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Adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder is a condition wherein your shoulder stiffens. This is quite common and it causes reduced mobility of the shoulder. This condition is commonly mistaken for arthritis because they have similar symptoms. However, these two are completely unrelated. Adhesive capsulitis only occurs in the shoulder joint. On the other hand, arthritis happens to all other joints of the body. Frozen shoulder usually happens to people between the ages of 40-60 years old. It's also more common in women than in men. Adhesive capsulitis can affect both shoulders and just one of them. It develops slowly and usually comes with stiffness and pain. With this condition, the capsule in your shoulder thickens and tightens. Then scar tissue bands form as well. Frozen shoulder has four stages. In each stage, you'll experience different symptoms.  

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Noticeable shoulder pain (pre-freezing stage)

At the very first stage, it's quite difficult to establish that there is a problem. The very first symptom of frozen shoulder is a noticeable shoulder pain. Even with the pain, you'll still be able to function. Although this is a symptom of frozen shoulder, you won't need any treatment for it. What's important though is to observe if the pain goes away after some time. If it doesn't, then the disorder may be progressing.

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Shoulder pain (freezing stage)

With this symptom, the noticeable pain develops. It usually gets worse each time you move your shoulder. The freezing stage may last from 2-9 months so the symptoms will appear gradually. Even when you're not using your shoulder, you may feel pain. Each time you move, you'll feel sharp bursts of pain during this stage of frozen shoulder. The best treatment for this symptom is to take painkillers. Although this won't eliminate the pain permanently, at least you'll get relief.

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Limited shoulder movements (freezing stage)

In the freezing stage, you'll notice limited shoulder movements. As time goes by, the symptoms will worsen. By this stage, won't be able to move your shoulder as far as you normally could. Your shoulder will feel stiff, making it difficult to move around. You will notice the loss of movement most when you move your arms away from the body. This is especially true at the beginning of the stiffness. Then, you'll also notice limited movement when you raise your arms or reach behind you. Sometimes this symptom comes with inflammation. In this case, you can relieve yourself by taking anti-inflammatory painkillers.

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Pain at night (freezing stage)

As time goes by, the pain and stiffness will only get worse. You'll notice both each time you move. But, the pain is usually worse at night. When you have a frozen shoulder, sleeping on the affected side will bring you a lot of pain. So, if only one of your shoulders is painful, avoid lying on that side.

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Pain lessens (frozen stage)

The next stage in adhesive capsulitis is the frozen stage. This stage usually lasts for 4-12 months. When you progress to this stage, you'll notice that the pain decreases. Since the first stage lasts for months too, it may not bother you as much anymore. But you'll definitely notice it lessen. Some people have reported that the pain doesn't lessen. That's true in some cases. The pain may stay the same but it will definitely not get worse. With this symptom, you don't have to do anything for treatment.

stages of Adhesive capsulitis
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Increased stiffness (frozen stage)

Also in the frozen stage, you'll experience increased stiffness. Although the pain decreases, your movements will become more restricted. You'll feel that the affected shoulder is becoming stiffer as the days go by. It will become more difficult for you to get through your daily tasks at this stage. In order to treat this symptom, you can try some shoulder exercises. This is a common recommendation from doctors and physicians. This can be very effective in reducing the stiffness. As long as you keep moving your shoulder, you'll be able to keep the stiffness at bay. Ask your doctor which exercises are best at this stage of frozen shoulder.

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Limited shoulder movement (frozen stage)

As we've said earlier, this stage lasts for up to 12 months. This means that you'll experience these symptoms happening gradually, sometimes far apart. Although the pain decreases, the stiffness becomes worse. Because of this, you'll experience more restricted shoulder movements. By this time, all your shoulder movements will start to get affected. But among all these movements, the outward rotation of your arm will be the worst. Don't allow the stiffness to restrict your movement. If you do, the muscles surrounding your shoulder may weaken. So, it's important to keep exercising your shoulder regularly despite the pain and stiffness.

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Fading pain (thawing stage)

After the frozen stage, symptoms of the thawing stage will start to emerge. Adhesive capsulitis is one disorder which lasts for a long time. Since symptoms are gradual, people often dismiss them as nothing out of the ordinary. The first symptom of the thawing stage is that the pain you're feeling will start to fade. However, the pain won't go away altogether. It may even come back on different occasions. Since the pain is diminishing, there is no urgent need to treat this symptom. You merely have to let the pain fade until you don't notice it anymore.

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Increased movement (thawing stage)

The next symptom in the thawing stage is an increased movement of the shoulders. You'll start noticing that you can move your arms and your shoulders more and more. However, the movement doesn't come back in an instant. Just like all the other symptoms, it will happen gradually. At this stage, take the opportunity to speed up the process. Keep exercising even though it may feel uncomfortable. Remember, you don't want your muscles to fade away. Of course, this is still a symptom of adhesive capsulitis. This means that the best treatment will come from your doctor.

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Symptoms don't go away (thawing stage)

With adhesive capsulitis, you'll experience similar symptoms in the different stages. At each stage, you can do certain treatments to relieve these symptoms. However, if they don't go away, you may have to undergo surgery. One technique to treat frozen shoulder is manipulation. In this procedure, the surgeon will move your shoulder around. The surgeon will do this while you're under anesthetic. Another technique is arthroscopic capsular release. This is a minor surgery. The surgeon releases your joint's capsule using a specialized probe. These techniques have the potential to permanently rid you of frozen shoulder.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.