Frozen Shoulder / Adhesive Capsulitis

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What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition in which the shoulder becomes very stiff. This occurs through 3 phases: Freezing, Frozen, and Thawing. In the freezing phase, the shoulder is very painful and begins to lose motion. There may be an inciting injury that starts the process but often this condition is idiopathic or occurs without an obvious cause. In the frozen phase, the pain usually goes away but the shoulder remains very stiff and difficult to move. In the thawing phase, the shoulder motion slowly improves. Unfortunately, without treatment, this process can take 12-18 months.

What symptoms does frozen shoulder cause?

The key symptoms with frozen shoulder are pain and stiffness, or loss of motion. Frozen shoulder is more common in women. People with diabetes or hypothyroidism are at increased risk for developing frozen shoulder.

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

Frozen shoulder is diagnosed through a patient history and physician exam. Usually, X-ray and MRI are not necessary for diagnosis, though an X-ray is sometimes done to rule out other causes.

How is frozen shoulder treated?

Treatment of frozen shoulder is dependent on the phase you are in. In the early phase, a cortisone injection can be very effective in stopping the disease process in its tracks. In the early and middle phases, physical therapy to stretch the shoulder and break up scar is also critical. In some cases of severe frozen shoulder, surgery may be considered to remove or break up scar and regain motion.