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Frozen Shoulder in Postmenopause: Latest Research

By | Fact Checked |

Frozen Shoulder in Postmenopause: Latest Research

The condition popularly known as frozen shoulder, also referred to as adhesive capsulitis, affects about 5 to 20 percent of the population. It is more common among women, especially those between the ages of 40 and 60, so it is an issue for some women beginning in perimenopause and beyond to postmenopause. 

What is a frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is a condition in which an individual experiences pain and loss in the range of motion in their shoulder. These symptoms get progressively worsen over time. The condition is usually caused by inflammation of the tissue (capsule) that holds the joint together. Scarring also develops along with the inflamed capsule. Over time the scarring gets worse, restricting movement in the shoulder and causing pain. 

Read about menopause and shoulder pain

Individuals with a history of thyroid problems, heart disease, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease are at special risk of developing frozen shoulder. Although the condition typically resolves itself over time, full recovery can take several years. 

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The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not known, although it can occur after an arm injury or with the presence of bursitis or rotator cuff tendinitis. It is commonly seen in women between the ages of 40 and 60, which suggests there is a hormonal component to this condition. 

Since estrogen is involved in reducing inflammation, promoting the integrity of connective tissue (like that in the shoulder) and muscle growth, and stimulating bone growth, it makes sense to explore the role of hormones in women with frozen shoulder.  

Study of frozen shoulder in postmenopausal women

A group of researchers at Duke Health evaluated the medical records of nearly 2,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 45 and 60 who had shoulder pain, stiffness, and adhesive capsulitis. Some of the women were on hormone replacement therapy, and some were not. 

Read about menopause and frozen shoulder

Overall, 3.95 percent of women who had taken hormone replacement therapy were diagnosed with frozen shoulder compared to 7.65 percent of women who had not taken the therapy. Even though the difference between the two groups was not statistically significant, “there may be a connection between the loss of estrogen in menopause and this painful shoulder condition,” according to Anne Ford, MD, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the study’s authors. 

This study is believed to be the first to analyze the role of hormone therapy in the occurrence of frozen shoulder in menopausal women. Although more research is needed, the authors believe their findings are “sufficient to support the hypothesis that hormone therapy may be protective against the disorder.”  

Bottom line

According to Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein, coauthor of the study and a faculty member of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, “A disease that has such a strong predilection for women is unlikely to be truly idiopathic.” A better understanding of how hormones (estrogen) can have an impact on the development of this condition will help women and their doctors arrive at better prevention measures and treatments in the future.

  • Avery S. Hormone therapy appears to reduce risk of shoulder pain in older women. Duke Obstetrics and Gynecology 2022 Oct 11 Hormone therapy may help prevent shoulder pain and loss of motion in menopausal women. North American Menopause Society news release. 2022 Oct 12
  • Hormone therapy may help prevent shoulder pain and loss of motion in menopausal women. North American Menopause Society news release. 2022 Oct 12

Andrea is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) & Menopause Expert. Andrea is in menopause & has been researching for the last 5 years science-based ingredients and methods to help women manage their symptoms. She’s the Founder of—a multiple award-winning website. Andrea co-authored the book “Unjunk Your Junk Food” published by Simon and Schuster, as well as “Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart,” and “Label Lessons: Unjunk Your Kid’s Lunch Box.” Andrea co-hosts the Morphus for Menopause podcast and appears as a Healthy Living Expert on TV across North America. Andrea has more than 20 years of experience in the health & wellness space and is a multiple award-winning Influencer.