Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is when the connective tissue within the shoulder joint becomes inflamed. Thiscauses the tissue to become thick and tight, resulting in restricted shoulder mobility and pain. The injury can happen after prolonged immobilization, such as a fracture or surgery.
Other risk factors, such as diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, and cardiovascular dysfunction, can increase the risk of developing a frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is typically described in three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. Each stage has different symptoms that affect the mobility and function of the shoulder joint.
- Freezing stage: sharp pain, decreased range of motion, swelling, difficulty laying on the affected shoulder
- Frozen stage: Decreased motion, dull pain, decreased strength secondary to pain
- Thawing stage: slowly improving range of motion, decreased pain, improved functional strength
The diagnosis of frozen shoulder is made first through an exam of your shoulder. X-rays are often taken to ensure no other problem is contributing to your shoulder problem.
Frozen shoulder can often take 12-24 months to recover full function completely. During this time, physical therapy can help improve mobility and pain during the different stages of healing. Cortisone injections to improve pain and decrease inflammation can be helpful throughout each stage. Surgical interventions such as hydro-dilation and manipulation under anesthesia can also be used as effective treatments to help speed the recovery of range of motion and pain.