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Frozen Shoulder Treatment Overview

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Treating frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder usually has three stages. Treatment may depend on which stage you’re in. The freezing stage can cause severe pain in the shoulder. The frozen stage causes stiffness and limited range of motion. The thawing stage is when the shoulder starts getting better.

It may take 3–4 months for pain and stiffness to improve. It can take up to a couple of years for your shoulder’s range of motion to return to normal.

What is the best treatment for a frozen shoulder?

You can treat symptoms yourself by taking OTC anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), regularly. These medicines can be particularly helpful during the freezing stage, but they can also relieve symptoms during the other stages. Check with a healthcare provider if you’re taking NSAIDs daily—they may irritate your stomach. They can also affect your liver and kidneys over time.

You can try gentle stretching exercises to increase your shoulder’s range of motion. It’s helpful to work with a physical therapist, who will gradually increase the intensity of the stretches.

It’s important to see a healthcare provider like an orthopedist for an accurate diagnosis. Other conditions like shoulder arthritis, rotator cuff tear, stroke, or nerve problems may be confused with frozen shoulder.

If you have a frozen shoulder, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. Or a cortisone injection into the shoulder to reduce pain and increase your range of motion.

Medical tests & labs

Frozen shoulder is diagnosed based on a physical exam and your symptoms. You shouldn’t need an imaging test. But your doctor may want to rule out other causes. They may do an X-ray to check for arthritis or an MRI to look at the rotator cuff, which can also cause pain and weakness.

Go to the ER if you have sudden weakness in the arm, facial drooping, or problems speaking. These can be signs of a stroke.

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