It’s excruciating pain that can last as long as three years. It can start as upper arm pain followed by numbness or tingling through the elbow.
Dr. John Mehalik, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Health, says frozen shoulder is a spontaneous and painful condition. “Frozen shoulder is a very curious condition. It’s a spontaneous, what we call, idiopathic condition. Idiopathic means we don’t know where it came from in most cases. It most commonly affects women most commonly in premenopausal years ages 40 to 60. It can also affect diabetics, people with thyroid disorders, or even men with prostate disorder.”
The sudden pain can mimic a pinched nerve. “When they try to reach up their back frequently they notice, hey wait a second I can’t really do that the same way I used to, or getting something off a top cabinet maybe they aren’t able to reach it,” said Dr. Mehalik.
Frozen shoulder goes through three phases: a freezing phase, where patients progressively lose motion in their arm; the frozen phase, where the pain and stiffness begins often lasting between six months and three years; then there’s the thawing phase, where as suddenly as the pain came on it disappears. “It has to go through those three phases, the freezing, the frozen, and then eventually the thawing phase. The real cure here is time. If we can be patient with it frozen shoulder cases always go away,” said Dr. Mehalik.
Doctors can recommend certain treatments to alleviate the patient’s pain. “All of our treatments, pills, shots, creams, physical therapy, even surgeries are done to improve mobility so that it hurts less until it eventually thaws,” said Dr. Mehalik.
While it’s not well known, frozen shoulder is a common problem causing patients stiffness and pain. Why it happens isn’t clear, but if patients notice pain or a loss of motion it’s best to see their doctor and find ways to ease the pain.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.