Can Frozen Shoulder Happen to You?


The short and simple answer is, yes. The fact is that it is so little is known about frozen shoulder syndrome that it is safe to say this shoulder joint condition can happen to anyone. Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is a condition in which the tissue around the shoulder joint stiffen causing limited movement and pain.

Here is what we know for certain about frozen shoulder syndrome:

  • Stiffening of the shoulder can happen to one shoulder at a time or both shoulders at the same time without rhyme or reason.
  • Women are much more susceptible to this kind of shoulder joint pain than men, at an average rate of 4 to 1.
  • There is no connection between a person’s dominant hand/arm (right or left handedness) or the amount of usage and frozen shoulder.
  • The most common age groups affected by this shoulder joint condition are people in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

What Causes It?

For many, frozen shoulder syndrome seems to arise without an obvious explanation as to why leaving medical professionals with no alternative than to look at a wide range of possible connections between other known conditions and frozen shoulder. Unfortunately, no matter how many connections are drawn between this kind of shoulder stiffening and other conditions there is still no direct answer to providing shoulder pain relief. If doctors knew the cause, they could perhaps aid in stopping frozen shoulder syndrome from happening in the first place. Some connections they do know are:

  • Injury

Many patients report having recently injured their shoulder in some way. In a lot of cases they never sought any shoulder pain relief because the injury was so minor. There is a theory among some physicians that suggest frozen shoulder was already setting in, which then led to the injury reported by the patient. Still others believe it was the injury which led to stiffened joint.

  • Diseases and Other Medical Conditions

Some other known associations are stroke, mastectomy and other medical conditions which result in the sustained immobility of the arm. This typically involves any kind of surgery or treatment plan that requires the arm be held immobile through the use of a sling or other apparatus. Heart conditions or other diseases affecting the heart and/or lungs as well as diabetes have been connected to frozen shoulder. In fact, patients with diabetes are 6 times more likely to develop frozen shoulder syndrome than those without diabetes experiencing the same conditions. Individuals dealing with thyroid issues, Parkinson’s disease and even high cholesterol have also been known to develop shoulder joint stiffening. Some even report having bouts of arthritis in areas near the shoulder such as the neck or collar bone, which shows that the connections run far and wide, and none is proven culprits.

  • Idiopathic Cases

In the most common cases of frozen syndrome there is no known cause or connection. The shoulder simply freezes without warning or indication of a possible cause. There was no injury. There is no disease. The condition arises out of the blue and doctors cannot explain why. These cases are described as idiopathic, meaning cause unknown.

How Can Sufferers Find Relief?

For those suffering from frozen shoulder syndrome, finding shoulder pain relief can be hard. Many spend a year or more bouncing from doctor to doctor trying to find a diagnosis only to end up in physical therapy to regain mobility, all without ever really getting answers. For most patients, physical therapy is the answer to regaining use of their shoulder. A combination of range-of-motion exercises and medicated injections into the joint can provide relief and increased mobility. For a small few, surgery may be needed. The good news is that once the shoulder has been loosened and mobility regained, it is uncommon for frozen shoulder syndrome to recur in the same shoulder again. If gone untreated or treated incorrectly the condition can become debilitating and maybe even permanent.

What Are the Next Steps if You Have Shoulder Pain?

  • Contact your doctor

You may need to have an x-ray or an MRI done of your shoulder if a straightforward diagnosis is not clear. Depending upon your level of pain, the doctor may prescribe painkillers including anti-inflammatory painkillers to reduce inflammation and help ease some of your discomfort while treating the shoulder.

  • Exercises and Physical Therapy

Many doctors will provide you with special exercises as well as refer you to a physical therapist who will guide you through mobility and strengthening exercises intended to reduce the stiffness of your shoulder and help regain much of the lost movement capabilities.

Doctors may never know what the absolute cause of frozen shoulder syndrome is, but hopefully through accurate diagnosis and treatment they can loosen the joint and help their patients find relief.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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