Frozen Shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis is more commonly known as frozen shoulder, and with good reason: It can render your shoulder so stiff, it's almost impossible to button your shirt — that is, if you aren't in too much pain to get dressed in the first place.

In general, frozen shoulder can come on after an injury to your shoulder or a bout with another musculo-skeletal condition such as tendinitis or bursitis. It can also develop after a stroke. Quite often its cause can't be pinpointed. Nonetheless, any condition that causes you to refrain from moving your arm and using your shoulder joint can put you at risk for developing frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder affects 10-20 percent of people with diabetes according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Women are more likely to develop frozen shoulder than men and it occurs most frequently in people between the ages of 40 and 60. 

Frozen shoulder has three stages:

  1. Freezing — Pain slowly becomes worse until range of motion is lost. (Lasts 6 weeks to 9 months)
  2. Frozen — Pain improves, but the shoulder is still stiff. (Lasts 4 to 6 months)
  3. Thawing — Ability to move the shoulder improves until normal or close to normal. (Lasts 6 months to 2 years)

Treatment of frozen shoulder focuses on controlling pain and getting movement back to normal through physical therapy. Sometimes surgery is also considered. Talk to your doctor about treatment options that are right for you.

  • Last Reviewed: August 21, 2013
  • Last Edited: March 30, 2015

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