Health & Fitness

My shoulder is stiff. Does that mean I have a frozen shoulder?

Heavy shoulder bags can cause shoulder injuries, including a frozen shoulder, which limits your range of motion.
Heavy shoulder bags can cause shoulder injuries, including a frozen shoulder, which limits your range of motion. NYT

Q. I am a 62-year-old woman who has been having shoulder pain for about a year. My shoulder motion has gradually become more limited. I have trouble reaching overhead and putting on my bra.

After researching my symptoms on the internet, I think I have a frozen shoulder. My discomfort keeps worsening and I wonder what treatment would help.

A. A frozen shoulder is a condition that may begin after an injury but more commonly presents with a gradual onset. It may be associated with shoulder tendinitis.

The shoulder becomes painful and you stop moving it at the extremes of motion. Scar tissue develops, which further limits your motion and a cycle begins with increasing pain and further loss of motion.

This condition is particularly common in women between 35 and 50 and in diabetics as well.

As you are 62, you may have a frozen shoulder or your motion may be limited by the development of arthritis. Arthritis can also result in increasing pain and gradual loss of motion.

You should see an orthopedic surgeon who will examine you and get X-rays to make the proper diagnosis. A frozen shoulder usually gets better with physical therapy over a period of months.

An arthritic shoulder may require anti-inflammatory medications or cortisone injections to treat. If the arthritic pain becomes severe, surgery may be indicated.

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