A “Cold Shoulder” for Ricky Gervais?

Comedian Ricky Gervais, well  known for his creation , The Office, is bemoaning the problem he is having with his right shoulder:

I’ve got a frozen shoulder right now. I’m on painkillers, muscle relaxants and just had a steroid injection, which was dreadful. If the doctor said I screamed and cried like a baby, he’s a liar.

Gervais spoke to David Letterman on The Late Show, saying that the other name for the condition, “50-year-old shoulder,” is just like “rubbing salt in the wound.” Letterman told Gervais that he had suffered from the same thing, and tried to show him some exercises to help:

Gervais is currently starring in the Netflix mockumentary Derek.

What is a frozen shoulder?


Normal Shoulder

The shoulder is a complex of four separate joints, together called the shoulder girdle or capsule, which gives it its amazing ability to move in so many directions. However, this freedom of movement also makes it more prone to injury.

A frozen shoulder, called ‘50 year-old shoulder’ by the Japanese,  is when the shoulder is painful and loses motion because of inflammation. Frozen shoulder occurs in about 2% of the general population. It most commonly affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, and occurs in women more often than men.

The capsule of the shoulder joint has ligaments that hold the shoulder bones to each other. When the capsule becomes inflamed, the shoulder bones are unable to move freely in the joint.

Most of the time there is no cause for frozen shoulder. Risk factors include diabetes, thyroid problems, disk disease in the neck or shoulder injury or surgery.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder

The main symptoms are decreased motion of the shoulder, pain and stiffness. Frozen shoulder without any known cause starts with pain. This pain prevents you from moving your arm. Lack of movement leads to stiffness and then even less motion. Over time, you become unable to do movements such as reaching over your head or behind you.

How is frozen shoulder treated?

Pain is treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and steroid injections. Steroid injections plus physical therapy can improve motion in the affected shoulder.

It can take a few weeks to see progress. It may take as long as 6 – 9 months for complete recovery. Physical therapy is intense and needs to be done every day.

Left untreated, the condition often gets better by itself within 2 years with little loss of motion.

Surgery is recommended if nonsurgical treatment is not effective. This procedure (shoulder arthroscopy) is done under anesthesia. During surgery the scar tissue is released by bringing the shoulder through a full range of motion. Arthroscopic surgery can also be used to cut the tight ligaments and remove the scar tissue from the shoulder. After surgery, you may receive pain blocks so you can participate in physical therapy.



Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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