Frozen Shoulder Treatment

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, occurs when the shoulder is painful and loses motion because of inflammation of the joint capsule.

The joint capsule of the shoulder joint is the lining connecting the ball to the socket and it contains the ligaments that hold the shoulder bones together. When the capsule becomes inflamed, frozen shoulder is the result, with severe shoulder pain serving as the presenting symptom followed by progressive loss of motion until the shoulder is so stiff that the shoulder bones are unable to move freely in the joint.

Most of the time there is no underlying cause of frozen shoulder; however, with the proper frozen shoulder treatment from our orthopedic specialists, you can significantly reduce pain and recovery time.

Frozen Shoulder Risk factors

  • Cervical disc disease of the neck
  • Diabetes
  • Shoulder injury
  • Shoulder surgery
  • Open heart surgery
  • Hyperthyroidism

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

The main symptoms of frozen shoulder are:

  • Decreased motion of the shoulder
  • Pain
  • Stiffness

Frozen shoulder without any known cause starts with pain. Most commonly this pain occurs after no specific injury and can last for a few weeks to months without obvious motion loss in the shoulder. Eventually a “frozen shoulder” develops because the shoulder capsule thickens and this thickened “scar-like” tissue prevents you from moving your arm.

The lack of movement caused by frozen shoulder pain leads to stiffness and then even less motion. Over time, your frozen shoulder will prohibit you from performing activities such as reaching over your head or behind you.

Diagnosing Frozen Shoulder

Your doctor will make a diagnosis of frozen shoulder based on your symptoms and an examination of your shoulder. If you have it, you will have a definite loss of rotation in your shoulder. X-rays of the shoulder may be taken to make sure there is no other problem, such as arthritis. An MRI exam may show inflammation, but there are no specific signs to diagnose frozen shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment Options

Non-Surgical Treatment

Frozen shoulder treatment options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and steroid injections. Steroid injections and most importantly physical therapy focusing on a stretching program can improve your motion. It can take a few weeks to see progress, but it may take as long as six to nine months to completely recover after symptoms begin. Physical therapy exercise needs to be done every day to achieve full recovery.

If nothing is done, frozen shoulder should get better by itself within two years with little loss of motion. However, treatment can significantly reduce the pain you experience.

Frozen Shoulder Surgery

Frozen shoulder surgery is recommended if nonsurgical treatment is ineffective. This procedure is done arthroscopically under anesthesia. Your surgeon will release the scar tissue by bringing the shoulder through a full range of motion. Arthroscopic surgery can also be used to cut the tight ligaments and remove the scar tissue. Some surgeons may use repeated pain blocks after surgery, which enable you to participate in physical therapy.