Adhesive capsulitis, or “frozen shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis, or “frozen shoulder”, describes a long-standing and ongoing painful limitation of shoulder motion. Frozen shoulder progresses through three stages. The first stage is the painful “freezing” stage that includes a progressive loss of shoulder motion. The second “frozen” stage is characterized by an ongoing and sometimes dramatic loss of range of motion that can last several months. The final “thawing” stage entails decreasing pain and improved mobility.

Most patients report a slow onset of pain and stiffness that started following an event, (i.e. fall/surgery) or another condition (i.e. rotator cuff strain, bursitis, etc.) Some patients are not able to identify a cause for their problem. Your range of motion will be most limited with reaching overhead, behind your back, or to the side. Sometimes this can pose a challenge for grooming and dressing. You may feel a grinding or popping when you move your shoulder. Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice fever, night sweats, excessive thirst, excessive urination, nausea, chest pain/ pressure, or shortness of breath.

Patients with diabetes or thyroid disease are much more likely to develop adhesive capsulitis. The condition is most common in the 40-65 year old population. Females are affected more frequently, and there is no preference for handedness. If you have had a prior episode in the opposite arm, you are at greater risk.
While there is no single treatment that can quickly “cure” adhesive capsulitis, our office may help. It is important that you understand that this condition improves very slowly. Be patient with your recovery. Some patients can require several months to regain function, while a minority of patients report permanent stiffness. If needed, you may apply ice or heat to your shoulder for 15-20 minutes at a time at home.

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