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Adhesive capsulitis - Frozen shoulder

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Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. In one stage of the disorder - the freezing stage - your shoulder's range of motion is notably reduced. Frozen shoulder usually affects one shoulder, although some people may develop it in both shoulders.

The condition usually improves on its own. However, in some cases you may need help from your doctor. Most people eventually regain nearly full shoulder range of motion and strength once signs and symptoms improve


A frozen shoulder may arise after a fracture or other arm injury. It may also be related to a rototor cuff tear, degenerative arthritis or previous shoulder surgery. Many cases of frozen shoulder, however, do not have a known cause. These cases are called idiopathic or primary adhesive capsulitis. Despite not having a known cause, primary adhesive capsulitis can be associated with systemic disorders such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


If there is loss of both active (movement without assistance) and passive (movement with assistance) on physical examination, the diagnosis of a frozen shoulder can be made. The patient will also describe a pattern of pain that is a times severe and at other times mild. The overall function of the shoulder in the acute phase of a frozen shoulder is poor.

Xrays are taken to rule out other shoulder disorders such as degenerative arthritis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also occasionally be used to further evaluate the shoulder.


  • Nonoperative: Anti-inflammatory medications, stretching and physical therapy are the primary non-operative treatments. The physical therapy should be supplemented with a home or internet based program. Cortisone injections may also play a role in the nonoperative treatment of this disorder.
  • Operative: If nonoperative measures fail, manipulation (passive movement of the arm to break up contracted shoulder tissues) under anesthesia may be required. Arthroscopy of the shoulder may also be indicated in some cases to surgically release some tight structures.

Frozen shoulders must be treated on an individual basis because there is significant variability in the clinical response to treatment. The details of any treatment are best discussed with your health care provider.


Maintaining a strong and flexible shoulder may prevent some cases of frozen shoulder.


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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
In no event will The DrEddyClinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.



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