Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen Shoulder)

Hidden Damage

Adhesive capsulitis, commonly known as Frozen Shoulder, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The hallmark of this condition is the gradual onset of pain and a progressive limitation of shoulder movement due to the tightening and thickening of the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint, leading to the development of adhesions (scar tissue). Frozen shoulder typically affects individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 and is more prevalent in women and those with certain medical conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disorders.

The development of adhesive capsulitis can be categorized into three stages: the “freezing” stage, where the shoulder becomes increasingly painful and movement starts to become limited; the “frozen” stage, where pain may begin to diminish but the shoulder becomes more stiff and using it becomes more difficult; and the “thawing” stage, where the range of motion begins to improve.

The exact cause of adhesive capsulitis is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve an inflammatory process that may be triggered by prolonged immobilization, systemic conditions, or minor shoulder trauma. The condition is often self-limiting, but the full recovery process can take anywhere from several months to a few years.

We Can Help
Treatment focuses on relieving pain and restoring motion through a combination of physical therapy, medications, and, in some cases, injections to reduce inflammation and pain. Physical therapy plays a crucial role, involving exercises to stretch the joint capsule and improve range of motion. In more severe cases, interventions such as joint distension, manipulation under anesthesia, or arthroscopic surgery to release the joint capsule may be considered.

Patient education is vital, emphasizing the importance of continued shoulder movement within the limits of pain to prevent further stiffening. With appropriate management, most individuals with adhesive capsulitis regain functional range of motion and relief from pain, although patience and persistence with treatment are often necessary due to the condition’s gradual nature.