Adhesive Capsulitis – aka Frozen Shoulder


Adhesive capsulitis is the medical term for the more commonly used phrase “frozen shoulder.” The capsule of the shoulder thickens and tightens, contributing to pain and loss of motion in the shoulder. There is no known cause for adhesive capsulitis; however, risk factors include diabetes, previous shoulder surgery, and hyperthyroidism. Some statistics show that up to 20% of diabetics may develop adhesive capsulitis compared to only 5% of the general population. The condition is also more prevalent in women around menopause.


The first sign of adhesive capsulitis is often pain. Next is loss of motion and function of the arm. The shoulder may continue to be dysfunctional for several months. It is typically diagnosed by clinical exam, as X-ray and MRI findings are usually insignificant but can help to rule out any other causes of your symptoms.


Adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder can resolve on its own in about a year without treatment however, both conservative and surgical interventions can help to speed your recovery. This condition is most commonly treated with NSAID medication, steroid injections and physical therapy to restore motion. The rehabilitation process is painful and involves aggressive range of motion activities for the shoulder, as well as the therapist moving your shoulder for you. A home program is typically included as well. It is essential for the patient to perform their exercises in PT and at home to restore the movement in their arm.

People with adhesive capsulitis often make a full recovery with no residual effects. Get help from a qualified PT if you suspect you may have the beginnings of adhesive capsulitis to get moving again. Motion is lotion for the joints!