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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 in three phases: freezing, frozen and thawing. In the freezing phase, the shoulder is very painful and begins to lose motion. There may be an injury that triggers the process but often this condition is idiopathic and 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, shoulder motion slowly improves. Unfortunately, without treatment, this process can take 12 - 18 months.

What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder?

The key symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain, stiffness and loss of motion. Frozen shoulder is more common in women. People with diabetes or hypothyroidism are also 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, although 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 tissue is also critical. In some cases of severe frozen shoulder, surgery may be considered to remove or break up scar tissue and regain motion.