Frozen shoulder is a painful problem that affects shoulder mobility. Here, Dr. Raj explains how to avoid it.

By Dr. Roshini Raj
March 14, 2019
ILLUSTRATION BY JOSÈ LUIS MERINO

A massage therapist recently warned me about developing frozen shoulder, which sounds awful. How can I avoid it?

It is indeed pretty awful. Frozen shoulder begins with inflamed connective tissue around a joint; as the tissue thickens and tightens, the joint gradually loses mobility until it becomes “stuck” for months on end. The condition can make everyday activities—like reaching into the fridge or unhooking your bra—intensely painful.

RELATED: 12 Reasons You Have Shoulder Pain–and What to Do About It

We don’t know why frozen shoulder happens to some people. But we do know it’s  more common in women over 40—which explains why it’s also known as 40-year-old shoulder—and you’re at greater risk if you recently had to immobilize your arm after a surgery or an injury.

The best way to prevent the debilitating condition is by keeping your shoulders flexible, with stretches and exercises that move the joints through their full range of motion. (Think shoulder rolls, for example, and the cross-body reach.) If you’re already feeling stiffness, your doc will likely recommend medications for the pain and physical therapy. The key is to preserve as much range of motion as you can.

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