As the name implies, frozen shoulder is a condition that primarily causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder. Typically, the effect of the disease is not systemic or it usually affects the shoulder joint locally. But sometimes it may also cause pain in other parts of the body (such as arm, bicep, neck, or even the back).
Again pain and stiffness are the two main symptoms. These discomforts can lead to limitation in the range of movement of the shoulder.
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It’s not bad idea to understand the 3 major phases of how adhesive capsulitis (an alternative medical term to call frozen shoulder) progresses:
The freezing phase
How long this phase lasts can vary! But typically, it can last several months (about 2 to 9 months). This is also called as a painful phase.
Pain is usually the first symptom which then eventually will be gradually followed with stiffness and limitation in movement. The pain may hurt more in the evening and nighttime – or when you sleep /lie on the affected side.
The main phase, adhesive (frozen /stiff) phase
In the end of freezing phase, the pain symptom gradually improves. But this is not the end since another major symptom (stiffness ‘limitation in movement’) remains and even will get worse.
The stiffness can be severe enough to affect all movements of the shoulder.
And the rotation of arm outwards is usually the movement most severely affected! If you insist to make this movement, you may experience arm pain.
Furthermore, the muscles around the affected shoulder may waste a bit as they become passive (sedentary) or are not used in long period of time.
Recovery (thawing) phase
The good news, the problem usually improves with time. But it can take several years. The thawing phase may last about 1 to 3 years.
Over time, the main symptoms gradually ease. This is followed with the improvement of the shoulder joint movement that gradually returns to near normal or normal!
Bicep is actually a group of muscles on the front side of the upper arm. Tendons (a kind of connective tissue) help attach bicep in the arm bones.
Both of the bicep ends connect to the shoulder joint and forearm bones. The tendons that help attach bicep in the forearm bones are called distal bicep tendons (see the picture below, credit to WebMD).
And tendons in the upper arm that link bicep to the joint of shoulder are called proximal bicep tendons!
And there is a chance for pain and stiffness of frozen shoulder to affect the proximal bicep tendons, causing bicep pain.
Furthermore, the stiffness in the shoulder may make you difficult to train or move bicep of the affected shoulder. This can be another reason that may contribute to cause discomfort in the bicep.
In fact, both shoulder pain and neck pain are often found together. However, these pain conditions can be classified in lots of different ways.
While some people experience only shoulder pain or neck pain, others can feel pain in both areas at the time. Does this mean that frozen shoulder can cause neck pain? The answer may vary.
Not all sufferers with frozen shoulder experience neck pain. But theoretically, there is a chance for the problem to indirectly cause neck pain.
Neck pain itself can be attributed by many factors. Even being inactive may increase the risk of developing the problem.
And when your shoulder is painful and stiffness, this can inhibit your exercise and decrease your daily physical activity. The chance of having neck pain increases if you also have daily routines that promote overexertion (strain) to the neck such as sitting on the office chair for long hours for work.
In addition, the common causes of neck pain include:
- Neck muscle strain.
- Poor posture.
- Joint /bone abnormality.
- Other conditions such as tumor and some degenerative diseases.
Like neck pain, back pain can be attributed by lots of factors, too. And pain in the back may occur together with the pain in the shoulder.