Does Frozen Shoulder Affect Both Shoulders?

As the name suggests, frozen shoulder (medically called ‘adhesive capsulitis’ or sometimes called ‘shoulder contracture’) is a condition that causes two major symptoms (pain and stiffness) in the affected shoulder. Typically, it affects left or right shoulder (one shoulder). But does it also affect both shoulders?

Topic overview

Typically, the symptoms of the problem gradually worsen over a number of months or even years. The pain due to inflammation in the shoulder strikes first, and this may come & go that last about 2-9 months. This phase is called freezing stage.

image_illustration325In the end of the freezing stage, another major symptom ‘stiffness problem’ gradually increases. This symptom can be severe enough to affect all movement of your shoulder. This phase is called frozen stage.

The good news, frozen shoulder is treatable and curable condition. The stiffness in the frozen stage will gradually improve over time.

How long does this improvement take? The answer can vary, but typically it takes about 5 months or even years.

The problem may improve naturally over time, even without treatment. But typically, you will have a slower recovery.

Eventually, the recovery ‘thawing phase’ will come and the function of your shoulder should return to normal or near normal (you may not regain full recovery, but you will be able to do many more tasks with your shoulder).

See a doctor if you experience a persistent pain in the shoulder!

The earlier diagnosis of frozen shoulder and the earlier appropriate treatment you take – the better prognosis of the problem, because the more likely it is that the treatment can provide better outcome and prevent long-term pain and stiffness!

Causes

Your shoulder has a capsule of connective tissue that houses tendon, ligament, and bone. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule is affected (inflamed and thickened).

But in general, the following factors can increase your risk of having frozen shoulder:

  1. A previous injury or surgery in the shoulder.
  2. Dupuytren’s contracture, a condition that can lead to thickened tissue in the hand and fingers.
  3. Diabetes.
  4. Stroke.
  5. Heart disease.
  6. Other systemic conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, tuberculosis, and thyroid problems.
  7. Age and gender. Women 40 and older are more affected than men.

Not moving for long periods of time can also increase your risk of a frozen shoulder. For instance, you may have this joint condition if you spend time in hospital.

It seems that any conditions that cause not-moving (inactive shoulder) for long periods of time (immobility) have potential risk to cause the problem. However, again the cause can vary.

Frozen shoulder can affect both shoulders in diabetics

As mentioned before, diabetes (especially type-2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes) is one of risk factors for having adhesive capsulitis. The exactly answer of why diabetes can contribute to cause frozen shoulder is not fully understood yet.

According to an article published in the NHS UK, having diabetes can be a significant risk factor to this joint problem. Even people with diabetes are twice as likely to have the problem.

The bad news, frozen shoulder symptoms in people with diabetes are more difficulty to treat and more likely to be more severe. Even the problem can affect both shoulders!

According to an AAFP report, about 15 percent of patients have the problem in both shoulders – and many of them with this bilateral condition are patients with diabetes.