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Can Frozen Shoulder Have a Connection to Menopause?

The relationship between menopause and frozen shoulder is a topic that has been debated for many years. Some experts believe there is a clear correlation between the two, while others claim that there is no evidence to support this theory.

In this blog post, we will look at the evidence that suggests a correlation between the two conditions and explore the symptoms and treatment options available for those who suffer from frozen shoulder during menopause.

What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a shoulder disorder characterized by the painful loss of shoulder mobility. It can occur in any person, but certain risk factors are associated with frozen shoulder.

It is most commonly seen in patients with diabetes and obesity; women are four times more often affected than men, and the non-dominant shoulder is more prone to be involved. The peak incidence in women is in the perimenopausal time.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder Pain

Frozen shoulder pain is often described as a deep, aching pain in the shoulder joint and deep in the shoulder capsule. The pain may radiate down the arm and can be aggravated by the shoulder or arm movement.

Other symptoms of frozen shoulder include stiffness and decreased range of motion in the affected shoulder and neck pain.

3 Distinct Phases of Frozen Shoulder

The first stage, or the freezing stage, is characterized by the gradual onset of shoulder pain and stiffness. The pain is often worse at night, making it difficult to sleep. The shoulder becomes progressively stiffer, making it difficult to move the arm away from the body. This phase typically lasts for two to nine months.

During the second or frozen stage, the shoulder pain and stiffness continue but may improve slightly. This phase usually lasts for four to twelve months.

The third and final stage is the thawing stage. In this phase, the shoulder gradually regains its range of motion. The pain also improves during this time. However, some people may still have some residual stiffness in the shoulder. This stage typically lasts for six to nine months.

Frozen Shoulder and Menopause

There is a possible correlation between frozen shoulder and menopause. Before we get into the research, let’s take a moment and have a refresher on the scientific process. Science ultimately determines cause and effect, and our scientific process is the systematic approach to deciding this.

In the absence of high-quality research on a specific topic, such as frozen shoulder and menopause, we look at possible correlations with the research that we do have.

The etiology of frozen shoulder is complex and multifaceted, and to date, there is no specific cause of frozen shoulder. However, some populations tend to have a higher risk. For example, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and obesity patients are more likely to experience frozen shoulder. In addition, age is a factor, and perimenopausal women are the most common group to experience frozen shoulder.

The authors of a recent review indicated an association between chronic, low-grade systemic inflammation and frozen shoulder. How does this relate to menopause?

We know menopausal women have a higher level of inflammatory markers than their younger counterparts. Estrogen specifically has been shown to modulate inflammatory mediators. A plausible theory then unfolds between the lower estrogen levels during menopause, creating a low-grade inflammatory environment for the increased possibility of frozen shoulder.

This concept needs specific research and testing; until that happens, it is merely a hypothesis with a biological foundation.

Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder Pain

Frozen shoulder can last for several months, if not years. It will get better eventually, but that can be difficult if you are in severe pain from a frozen shoulder with limited shoulder motion. Some treatments are effective. In general, success will be slow and steady. Catching the problem quickly and addressing the loss of mobility with stretching and strengthening exercises will help.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Frozen shoulder is a soft tissue problem with an increase in collagen formation, resulting in pain and stiffness in the joint and surrounding musculature. External rotation is typically the first motion affected, and patients will notice difficulty reaching overhead or behind them.

Gentle mobilization and stretching exercises are a great starting point for any at-home exercise treatment. Early treatment with regular exercise can facilitate the healing process and alleviate tight tissues causing pain. In addition, simple exercises that can be performed at home to improve shoulder movement in the affected arm to relieve pain can be effective.

Physical Therapy for Shoulder Joint Pain

Physical therapy is an excellent option for treating frozen shoulder pain. A physical therapist can help to mobilize the joint and surrounding muscles with basic exercises.

Ultrasound and TENS units are two modalities often used in physical therapy to help with frozen shoulder pain. Ultrasound provides deep heat to the tissues, can help reduce inflammation, and works in controlling pain. The TENS unit sends electrical impulses to the muscles and can help to reduce pain.

Natural Pain Management

Natural pain remedies that help manage inflammation may help with the myofascial pain associated with frozen shoulder. For example, topical salves and herbs can work together with home exercises to improve function and relieve pain.

Oral Medication

Prednisone and other oral corticosteroids can be effective in reducing inflammation and providing pain relief. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen can also help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. However, check with your doctor before taking any medication, as there can be potential side effects.

Steroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections are a standard treatment option for frozen shoulder pain. The medication is injected into the shoulder joint and can help to reduce pain and inflammation.

Surgery for Severe Pain

Surgery may sometimes be recommended to release the shoulder joint capsule. The surgical procedure can include manipulation under anesthesia to forcefully mobilize the shoulder. This is typically a last resort when all other treatment options have failed.

Platelet-Rich Protein (PRP) Injections

Platelet-rich protein injections are a relatively new treatment option for frozen shoulder pain. The injection is made up of a concentration of platelets and plasma that are derived from the patient’s blood. The injection is thought to help to reduce pain and inflammation by promoting the healing of the tissues.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Frozen Shoulder

There is some anecdotal evidence that frozen shoulders have resolved with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and many women have their frozen shoulder stories. In addition, there is some evidence that introducing calcitonin may improve frozen shoulder. However, there needs to be much more research done.

There is a movement in medicine to address the hormonal imbalances and hormonal fluctuations through menopause to manage some symptoms. In addition, through an anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise, and medication, women can address the inflammation associated with menopause symptoms.

Conclusion

There is no definitive answer to the extent of correlation between menopause and frozen shoulder, although there is some evidence to suggest that is the case.

Menopause is a complex event with many factors contributing to symptoms. However, managing inflammation can help with muscle pain and give you a solid foundation for treating frozen shoulder.

What do you think? Have you had any experience with frozen shoulder with menopause? What has helped you?

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor to get specific medical advice for your situation.

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The Author

Dr. Camilla Moore is a Lifestyle Medicine Chiropractor and a freelance medical and health writer. She is a self-published author and you can read her other articles at her blog, The Wellness Cabinet where she writes about exercise, fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness.

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Camilla

Thank you for sharing your story. What a journey you have had! I’m so happy you are feeling better and appreciate you sharing your treatment.

Sue

Yes I had a frozen shoulder and what I found out from my specialist was it can be an indicator of Thyroid Cancer, which I eventually had. The muscles all loosen up in the shoulder area when the thyroid which emits all kinds of hormones is disrupted. When I googled this it was in fact true. I had my thyroid out in 2007. I went through the entire frozen shoulder experience on a pain scale it was 10 out of 10. I had to go on percocet and oxycontin. I was in pain for 2 years. I got a special device I would get in called a Dynasplint that my insurance covered I can honestly say after 6 months of physio which did nothing, this device worked for me I got relief within weeks and 2 cortisone shots didn’t hurt either.

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