Why is Frozen Shoulder so common in 40+ Women?

As you know I mainly work in my pilates sessions with women who are entering their 3rd stage of life, that is the time in or beyond their menopause.  So many of these women find their shoulders stiffen up or are painful on movement, they visit their GP’s and are diagnosed with Frozen Shoulder.  I wonder why?  As many of these women have been ‘moving’ with me for many years, their shoulders are mobile, they are flexible and strong… so why?

Frozen shoulder is also called adhesive capsulitis, it can be pretty painful. It’s amazing how much we take for granted the full range and benefit of healthy joints. It’s not until they become dysfunctional that we realise how bad it can be.

Frozen shoulder is caused by the joint suddenly becoming inflamed.

This is a ball-and-socket joint (with the ‘ball’ at the end of the upper arm bone fitting into the round ‘socket’ of the shoulder blade) encased in a layer of strong ligaments — tough bands of tissue — called the shoulder capsule.

Frozen shoulder occurs when the capsule becomes thickened and inflamed. This causes the space inside to shrink, restricting movement in the joint and causing pain.

This capsule also contains lubricating fluid to enable bones in the joint to slide smoothly over each other.

In frozen shoulder, the amount of lubricating fluid reduces by a third, which further restricts mobility and increases pain.

The inflammation can cause thick bands of scar tissue, called adhesions, to form within the joint, also hampering movement.

I’ve seen my own Mum suffer with this painful condition.

She is a strong woman for her age.  At 80, she is still actively tending to a large garden, wheel barrows are her best friend.  And as a farmers wife, she is no stranger to regularly carrying heavy buckets of water. And she still absolutely LOVE’s brushing the yard, it’s one of her favorite things!

Mum’s frozen shoulder only started after she had a hysterectomy in her mid 70’s.

Here’s why: frozen shoulder is tied to oestrogen decline. My Mum’s was drastically compromised after her op.   Oestrogen helps stimulate elastin which cushions joints.  So, no or little oestrogen equals little or no elastin.

Although the role of oestrogens on tendons and ligaments is poorly understood, there is a major correlation between decline of estradiol and frozen shoulder. You rarely see women under 30 getting treatment for frozen shoulder.

Mum’s shoulders are much better now, we went to a good physio and she religiously did her homework exercises and she is now continuing them everyday.  She is actually using the broom (the one she uses to brush the yard!) to help the mobility of the her joints, like we do with the sticks in our pilates classes.

If you suffer from shoulder pain, find a good physio, and do your homework!

My online program ‘At Home with Susan’ (my Mum attends this!) we focus on all the health, wellbeing and weight loss of the Peri to Post Menopausal Woman.  FIND OUT MORE HERE