This brief article gives an overview of some of the known causes of frozen shoulder and then discusses the facts about idiopathic frozen shoulder syndrome.
So - how did it happen? How did you end up with your shoulder frozen?
Recent injury is a common story in frozen shoulder cases.
Many cases of frozen shoulder seem to follow after an injury to the rotator cuff muscles or the shoulder joint. This injury can be major or may seem very minor at the time - only for frozen shoulder to develop later.
Problems in other nearby joints can trigger the frozen shoulder syndrome. Frozen shoulder can develop in association with arthritis in the collar bone joint or the neck.
Immobility can lead to frozen shoulder:
Conditions that lead to the limb being immobile have been shown to lead to frozen shoulder. These include stroke or CVA, immobilizing in a sling and serious brain or spinal injury.
Heart or lung problems can be linked to the cause of your shoulder pain. Heart disease or cardiac surgery have sometimes led to frozen shoulder - as have major lung problems like TB or tumour. Please don't panic if you are reading this - these are very, very rare.
Diabetes Mellitus is a common associated condition with frozen shoulder. Diabetics are much more likely to get frozen shoulder than the rest of the population - some studies show that diabetics end up with their shoulder frozen up to six times more often than non diabetic patients.
Other ailments that are sometimes associated with frozen shoulder syndrome are thyroid problems, high cholesterol and Parkinson's disease.
The above list gives the commonest known causes of a frozen shoulder but in truth it is better to say that these are associated conditions rather than true causes. No one yet fully understands the trigger in the body that leads to a frozen shoulder but the items on the list above seem to be closely linked to the problem.
Please keep in mind however, that the commonest frozen shoulder cases have none of these associated features and just simply seem to arise from nowhere - these are called idiopathic cases.
Idiopathic is a medical word that means cause unknown. This group of patients are by far the most common amongst those suffering with the frozen shoulder syndrome.
I think it's also true that many of those, who remember a trigger incident or injury to the shoulder, can only do so with the benefit of hindsight. Some research doctor's believe that the problem was already brewing up in many of these people. They think that the minor injury was actually unrelated to the cause of the problem and only served to unmask the frozen shoulder by drawing the sufferer's attention to the shoulder joint.
It might even be true that a joint already beginning to struggle with frozen shoulder changes is more likely to suffer a minor injury than a normal joint. So ... which came first - the chicken or the egg?
The facts about idiopathic frozen shoulder!
Here's what research has shown us about the idiopathic variety of frozen shoulder:
Frozen shoulder happens mostly to people aged in their 50's, 60's and 70's
Women get their shoulder frozen much more commonly than men (in my patients it's about four women to one man)
There's no obvious connection between frozen shoulder and right or left-handedness
Frozen shoulder syndrome can sometimes affect both shoulders at once - or one after the other
It's a little difficult to get an idea of how common frozen shoulder truly is. The research studies that have tried to answer this question have not been very successful. Part of this relates to the fact that not all family doctors are skilled at making the diagnosis. If you have frozen shoulder then you may already have experienced this in your own case.