pelvisawareness_adminHormonal Changes

Frozen Shoulder In Menopause

We’ve all heard about the most common symptoms of menopause.

After all, hot flashes are famous all over the world! There are other typical side effects like weight gain and night sweats. Have you heard of frozen shoulder in menopause? 

It’s not certain whether there is a direct connection, but researchers are finding a link between women in menopause and a frequent condition called frozen shoulder.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is marked by sudden, severe shoulder pain and the sensation that your arm feels stuck and unable to move. This common condition happens when the connective tissues around your shoulder joint become thickened and stiff. This can happen because of trauma, extended use, immobilization, surgical procedures, or inflammation.1

Frozen shoulder impacts more than 9 million Americans, and affects more women than men. It typically strikes people between the ages of 40 and 60.1 It’s thought to affect between 2 and 5 percent of the global population. The condition also strikes perimenopausal or postmenopausal women more commonly than anyone else: Three-quarters of frozen shoulder patients are female.2

Frozen Shoulder In Menopause

As a woman ages and enters menopause, her ovaries make less estrogen. With menopause, ovaries completely stop making estrogen and progesterone. That shift in sex hormones can affect everything from bone density to the heart and joints.2

It’s estimated that 50 percent or more of women experience arthralgia, or joint pain, during menopause, but the effect of estrogen on the musculoskeletal system is still poorly understood. As a result, there’s no comprehensive cure for menopause-related joint pain.2

That’s changing, however. Two specialists who teach at Duke University School of Medicine—doctor of obstetrics and gynecology Anne Ford and orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist Jocelyn Wittstein—have conducted research that suggests menopausal hormone therapy may protect women against adhesive capsulitis.2

In their study, they analyzed the medical records of nearly 2,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 45 and 60 who had shoulder pain, stiffness and adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder.3

Here’s what they found:3

  • only 3.95% of those who had received hormone replacement therapy were diagnosed with the shoulder condition
  • that compares with 7.65% of women who had not received estrogen replacement and suffered with frozen shoulder

While the researchers stressed that differences were not statistically significant, they felt that these findings should drive further investigation. As Wittstein points out, since estrogen plays a role in stimulating bone growth, reducing inflammation, and promoting connective tissue integrity, not using systemic hormone therapy was associated with a higher risk of frozen shoulder.3

Ford added that since older women are most commonly affected by the condition, there could be a connection between the loss of estrogen in menopause and the painful shoulder condition.3

What Can I Do About Frozen Shoulder?

Women in menopause face some barriers when it comes to getting help for frozen shoulder. Dr. Wittstein points out that the majority of practicing orthopedic surgeons are men, who do not understand what it means to go through menopause. There are some misconceptions about the risks of hormone treatment, and there continues to be a “lack of urgency driven by menopause stigma and the medical profession’s ongoing failure to acknowledge and investigate women’s pain.”2  

There are positive signs, however. The doctors now plan to expand their research to a wider population.2 

Other research has looked into a natural hormone called “relaxin,” which is present in all men and women at a low baseline level. When a woman becomes pregnant, her body begins producing relaxin to a much higher degree—preparing her for childbirth—with the interesting side effect that some patients experience relief from frozen shoulder after becoming pregnant. This could lead to an effective treatment for frozen shoulder.1

Another study found that the short-term administration of  the Japanese herbal medicine Kanzo-to extract “thawed” shoulders enough for the patients to move their cervical and shoulder joints without any restriction or pain, and their menopausal symptoms were cured simultaneously.4

Researchers also encourage women to take steps to fend off issues like frozen shoulder by engaging in regular weight-bearing exercise and eating a healthy diet.2 All women are encouraged to add Kegel exercises to their daily routine too, to keep their pelvic floor healthy and strong. You can use a tool like the INNOVO Urinary Incontinence Kit, which helps you perform 180 perfect Kegels in 30 minutes. Subscribe to the INNOVO newsletter to receive a $20 discount code for your purchase.

Talk To Your Doctor 

If you think you’re suffering from a frozen shoulder, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. Seek appropriate diagnosis and treatment, and don’t suffer in silence.