Conditions & Treatments

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capulitis, is a general term meaning loss of motion in the shoulder joint. The cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, but likely related to underlying inflammation, and is unique to the shoulder joint.

The process of the shoulder becoming “frozen” happens in three phases, each stage lasting for variable amounts of time. Stage one is dominated by pain with movement that often is worse at night. This stage typically lasts 2-9 months. The next stage is characterized by some relief of the pain but a very limited range of motion of the joint. This stage can last anywhere from 4-12 months. Despite the progression of the symptoms in the previous stages, the third stage is a resolution of symptoms and gradual restoration of function of the shoulder joint that can last between 12-42 months.

Women experience this curious and sometimes very frustrating but self-limited problem more than men. Onset usually occurs in people 40–65 years of age. Some other predisposing factors include diabetes, enforced immobility (post trauma, overuse or surgery), cardiovascular disease, hyperthyoridism, Parkinson’s Disease and clinical depression.

Before diagnosing a frozen shoulder, all other causes of reduction in range of motion must be ruled out with X-rays and other studies.

Since frozen shoulder usually is a self-limited ailment, treatment is conservative including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, stretch and range of motion exercises, heat and ice therapy and sometimes corticosteroid injections. Surgery is only an option if there is no improvement after several months.