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Ouch! 5 Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

From arthritis to rotator cuff damage, why your shoulders may hurt and possible treatments

5. Frozen Shoulder

What it is: Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, occurs when the capsule of connective tissue that is the lining of the shoulder joint thickens and becomes inflamed. There are three stages of frozen shoulder: the freezing stage, when movements are becoming more and more painful; the frozen stage, when the pain decreases but extreme stiffness makes it difficult to move; and the thawing stage, when stiffness decreases and range of motion increases. Frozen shoulder is different from conditions such as bursitis because the pain and stiffness occur when the shoulder is at rest.

Causes: Frozen shoulder is more common in women over age 50 and those with diabetes or thyroid disease, but the cause of the problem is unknown. "It can be a result of trauma or injury, but many times there is no precipitating factor that can be identified," Laskowski says.

Treatments: It can take 12 to 18 months to progress through the stages of frozen shoulder.

During that time, physical therapy can help improve range of motion and cortisone injections can reduce the pain. In mild cases, you might be encouraged to apply ice to the affected shoulder, perform simple range-of-motion exercises, take over-the-counter pain relievers and wait it out. "The best course of treatment may be to let it run its course — it could disappear on its own," Quinby says.

Jodi Helmer regularly contributes health stories to AARP.

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