Frozen shoulder, medically known as adhesive capsulitis, is a painful and restrictive condition that affects the shoulder joint’s range of motion. While it can occur in both men and women, statistics show that women are more likely to suffer from this debilitating condition. This gender disparity has sparked curiosity and raised numerous questions about why women are more prone to developing frozen shoulder. In this blog, we’ll delve into the various factors that contribute to this phenomenon, shedding light on the complex interplay of genetics, hormonal changes, and lifestyle factors.
Understanding Frozen Shoulder
Before delving into why women are more susceptible to frozen shoulder, let’s first understand what this condition entails. Frozen shoulder occurs when the capsule that surrounds the shoulder joint becomes thickened and tight. This leads to a progressive loss of shoulder mobility and causes pain and stiffness. The condition typically evolves in three stages: freezing (painful stage), frozen (stiffness), and thawing (gradual improvement).
The Gender Disparity in Frozen Shoulder
Studies have consistently shown that women are at a higher risk of developing frozen shoulder compared to men. In fact, research suggests that women are nearly twice as likely to experience this condition. While the exact reasons remain elusive, several factors come into play.
1. Hormonal Fluctuations
One prominent theory behind the gender disparity in Frozen Shoulder revolves around hormonal fluctuations. Hormones play a crucial role in the regulation of collagen production, which is essential for maintaining joint health. Estrogen, in particular, has been implicated in collagen metabolism. Women experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives, including during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. These fluctuations can affect collagen synthesis and make women more susceptible to developing Frozen Shoulder.
During menopause, for example, estrogen levels significantly decrease, which can lead to collagen-related issues. Lower estrogen levels are associated with decreased collagen production and decreased joint flexibility. This decline in collagen could contribute to the development of Frozen Shoulder in women and unsurprisingly women are more prone to Frozen Shoulder during the peri menopause and menopause portions of their lives.
2. Genetic Predisposition
Another factor contributing to the higher incidence of frozen shoulder in women is genetic predisposition. Some individuals may have a genetic susceptibility to develop certain medical conditions, including Frozen Shoulder. While more research is needed to fully understand the genetic factors at play, familial tendencies have been observed.
Moreover, genetic differences in collagen production and structure may also play a role. Variations in collagen-related genes could make some individuals more prone to developing this condition, and these genetic differences may be more prevalent in women.
3. Lifestyle Factors
While hormonal fluctuations and genetics play significant roles, lifestyle factors cannot be ignored. Women are often exposed to unique lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of frozen shoulder. These factors include:
- Occupation: Certain professions, such as those involving repetitive overhead motions or heavy lifting, can increase risks. Women in physically demanding jobs may be at a higher risk due to the cumulative stress placed on their shoulder joints. If the posture of the shoulder isn’t optimal, it can create a change in the way the joint deals with force, which can create stresses and inflammation.
- Caregiving: Women are more likely to be primary caregivers for children and elderly family members which is why they come up as a statistically vulnerable group. These responsibilities often involve repetitive tasks that can strain the shoulder joint over time and leave limited time for healthy lifestyles.
- Trauma: Frozen Shoulder often begins after an injury. The client will often come in with a sporting injury, or a fall and what begins as an acute problem, develops into a frozen Shoulder.
4. Underdiagnosis in Men
While women are more likely to be diagnosed with Frozen Shoulder, it’s important to consider the possibility of under diagnosis in men. Men may be less likely to seek medical attention for shoulder pain or stiffness, leading to a lower reported prevalence. Social and cultural factors can influence men’s healthcare-seeking behaviour and contribute to underreporting of the condition in this population.
Frozen shoulder is a painful and restrictive condition that affects a significant number of women. While the exact reasons behind the gender disparity are not entirely clear, a combination of hormonal fluctuations, genetic predisposition, lifestyle factors, and potential under diagnosis in men likely contributes to this phenomenon.
Understanding why women are more likely to get this condition is a crucial step in developing preventive strategies and tailored treatment approaches. Women should be aware of the risk factors associated with this condition and take steps to maintain shoulder health, such as regular exercise, ergonomic adjustments at work, and seeking medical attention if they experience shoulder pain or stiffness. Additionally, further research is needed to unravel the complex interplay of factors contributing to increased incidences in women, ultimately leading to better prevention and treatment options for all individuals affected by this condition.
Find out how we can treat your Frozen Shoulder here.
For further information on Frozen Shoulder, take a look at the NHS website.