How is Frozen Shoulder Associated with Diabetes?

| Nov 1, 1999

I have had type 1 for 22 years. I am a 41-year-old female. Is there a link between frozen shoulder and diabetes? What can be done to ease it?

Annie Kilsby
Penola, South Australia

Yes, there is a connection between frozen shoulder and diabetes. Frozen shoulder leads to pain at the tip of the shoulder that restricts movement and then limits the movement because of fibrosis. It appears that in diabetes, certain compounds accumulate in the linings of joints in the collagen. The collagen fibers then stick together and limit the capacity for the joint and ligaments to stretch with movement. Ultimately this ends up as a frozen shoulder.

Several drugs are being developed for the treatment of frozen shoulder. One such compound is able to prevent the tendon shortening that occurs in rats with diabetes. This compound has not yet reached the market. In the meantime, you should use stretching, anti-inflammatory drugs, injections of local steroids and anesthetic agents judiciously.

Aaron Vinik, MD, PhD
Director, Diabetes Research Institute
Eastern Virginia Medical School
Norfolk, Virginia

Dr. Richard Bernstein of the Diabetes Center offer this perspective on frozen shoulder.

Muscular and skeletal problems such as yours are virtually universal among people with long-standing, poorly controlled diabetes. Sometimes the problems are very painful and even disabling. They probably stem from glycosylation of collagen (a protein in tendons).

Collagen fibers normally slide along one another during muscular movement. In glycosylation, they become glued together by glucose. This process can also occur in the skin, which becomes hard and tough (diabetic scleredema).

Frozen shoulder, or diabetic shoulder capsulitis, is usually more severe in the dominant shoulder. Impairment is most apparent on internal rotation, like back scratching from below, where the dominant hand does not reach as high as the other hand. Other features include pain while putting on a sweater or T-shirt and tender trigger points in the trapezius muscle (between shoulder and neck), deltoid muscle (outer, upper arm) and capsule of the shoulder joint. Treatment is deep massage of the affected trigger points and tendons. This should be performed once every other week for perhaps 15 sessions.

All of the above treatments absolutely work if properly performed with the right equipment. If blood sugars remain elevated, such problems will in all likelihood recur.

Richard K. Bernstein, MD, FACE, FACN
Mamaroneck, New York

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Posted by Anonymous on 1 February 2008

I am a type 1 diabetic currently being treated for frozen shoulder. About a year ago I had what felt like the exact same problem in my hip joint. Could it have been the same thing? I've never seen any reference to "frozen hip".

Posted by Squidgy on 8 May 2008

I too am currently being treated for frozen shoulder - and have pretty much the same pain in my hip. Again, I've never seen any reference to "frozen hip" - so would be interested to know if there is any connection.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 September 2008

I am a type1 since 1969 and have suffered from frozen shoulder lately, but I am now, after 4-5 years, just fine again. I have also notices some pain in my hip(s) from time to time, but it has come and gone and never reached the problems of the shoulder, so I have just noticed it.

Posted by Anonymous on 25 October 2008

I, too have diabetes (Type 2) I have had frozen shoulder in BOTH shoulders, and now my hip and foot are giving me some real pain.
would like to know what other are going to try.
Type 2 in Colorado

Posted by Anonymous on 15 January 2009

I am being treated for Frozen Shoulder. I am type 1 for 36 years. My most recent A1c is 5.9 and I'm usually around 6. I am on an insulin pump. I am curious if others experience Frozen Shoulder with these tightly regulated blood sugars.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 March 2009

Anonymous 1.15.2009: I have been a Type 1 diabetic for 25 years with A1Cs consistently in the 5s (haven't had an A1C above 5.8 in nearly 10 years). I started having soreness in my shoulder over the summer after some golf, and was diagnosed with frozen shoulder. Physical therapy has helped, and now I have a series of stretching exercises to do at home. It's been about 10 months and I'm just now seeing improvement (in time for golf again).

Posted by Anonymous on 8 April 2009

I didn't know what I had until I read this thread.
It is is obvious that I have... "Frozen Sholder Syndrome" but does this mean I'm Diabetic?

I have been to massage and acupuncture both help but seem
short lived as a few hours at the keyboard and I'm a reck again!

That said, a regiment of good stretches and drinking lot's of
water helps.

Any other tips?

thanks to this site because it's my first lead to potential recovery!

Posted by Anonymous on 28 April 2012

I have gone through this for three years now, with all the typical pain and difficulties. Two surgeries on right shoulder and three years of therapy have gotten most of the range of motion although I feel as if I will never be able to reach behind my back again. My left arm is in the stiff and painful stage with very little range of motion. This is an area of diabetic care that needs a great deal more study.

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