The Link Between Diabetes and Frozen Shoulder

If you have stiffness and pain in your shoulder, you may be suffering from a condition known as frozen shoulder. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder occurs when you have swollen, stiff connective tissue around the shoulder joint. 

This inflammation can make it hard to do daily activities, and as the condition worsens, your pain and stiffness becomes even more debilitating.

People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing frozen shoulder because unmanaged blood sugar levels can affect collagen, a major protein that makes up your connective tissue.

At Maryland Orthopedic Specialists, you benefit from expert care for frozen shoulder associated with diabetes or other factors. Our orthopedic experts improve your movement and treat your pain, but we don’t overtreat your condition.

Learn more about diabetes and your risk of frozen shoulder and what we can do about this painful, limiting condition.

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is a painful condition in which your shoulder loses some or all mobility. The condition usually occurs in three distinct stages:

Freezing stage

This occurs in the first six weeks to nine months. Your shoulder is painful to move and you lose much of your range of motion.

Frozen stage

This stage lasts four to 12 months during which pain may become more manageable, but your mobility decreases to a greater extent as stiffness worsens.

Thawing stage

Anytime after six months up to several years after the first onset of symptoms, you find that mobility improves and that you can resume many tasks.

Every patient has a unique experience with frozen shoulder. Early appropriate intervention can reduce the severity of your personal case.

What does diabetes have to do with frozen shoulder?

If you have chronically high blood sugar levels, sugar molecules may attach to collagen. Collagen is a major protein that makes up the connective tissue that holds your joints together. 

When the sugar attaches to the collagen, it gets sticky, so movement becomes restricted and your shoulder starts to stiffen. 

When you try to work through the stickiness, it causes pain that progresses from mild to severe. In some cases, your shoulder becomes impossible to move.

What are other risk factors?

Long-term immobility of your shoulder, if it were in a cast, for example, puts you at risk of developing frozen shoulder. The condition can also occur after you’ve experienced injury, such as a rotator cuff tear. 

Women are more susceptible to the condition than men are, and those ages 40-60 are most likely to develop frozen shoulder.

What can be done for frozen shoulder?

We here at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists work to reduce your pain and improve range of motion. We offer physiotherapy, such as shoulder exercises and stretching to prevent progression and further stiffening. We’re careful that our therapy doesn’t interfere with your natural thawing stage.

You may also benefit from deep massage of the trigger points at your shoulder and, in some cases, therapeutic injections.

We individualize your treatment dependent on your health, the history of your condition, and its severity.

If you’re experiencing symptoms that suggest frozen shoulder, contact our Bethesda or Germantown, Maryland, office to get some relief and help prevent further progression. Don’t delay. Call the office for an appointment.

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