Frozen Shoulder/Adhesive Capsulitis

Frozen Shoulder/Adhesive Capsulitis

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

Otherwise known as Adhesive Capsulitis, this is a real and painful condition in which the lining of the shoulder (capsule) becomes inflamed and thickens which produces a painful arm with diminished mobility.

How does a Frozen Shoulder happen?

Typically no direct cause is identified but it can be the result (many weeks after) of minor trauma or even due to an unrelated viral illness such as a cold.  It is also more commonly seen weeks or months after surgery of the neck, breast or chest.  It is most common in middle-aged women and in diabetics.  Once the capsule becomes inflamed, it rapidly thickens and causes difficulty moving the shoulder and nighttime pain.

Is it permanent?

No.  A Frozen Shoulder will typically resolve with time; however the exact amount of time varies widely from person to person and can take weeks in some, years in others.  Physical therapy is helpful and steroid injections into the capsule can be curative.  Fortunately, once a frozen shoulder resolves, recurrence in the same shoulder is extremely rare.

Will I need surgery?

While there is a surgical option for Adhesive Capsulitis, less than 10% of people end up needing this.  Manipulation under anesthesia (forcing the arm to break through adhesions while the patient is asleep) is one option but carries a risk of fracture of the shoulder as well as a lower success rate.  

The preferred technique is arthroscopy of the shoulder with precise surgical thinning of the capsule.  A sling is worn for less than a day and therapy and movement of the arm begins the following day.  The expectation for a Frozen Shoulder treated both surgically or nonsurgically is that the motion will ultimately return to normal.

Drs. Bak and Silas see hundreds of patients annually with Frozen Shoulder and enjoy seeing their patients resume normal life after treatment.