Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder

(Adhesive Capsulitis)

A painful condition resulting from chronic stiffness of the shoulder joint and is most common between the ages of 40 and 60. Frozen shoulder often occurs when the shoulder has been immobile for a period of time and when a minor shoulder injury heals with scar tissue that affects the joint movement. Even though the causes are not fully understood, frozen shoulder appears to be more common in patients with diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease or Parkinson disease.

Elbow Conditions | ASULC | Adelaide Shoulder & Upper Limb Clinic | Adelaide

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

There are three phases:

Freezing phase (2 – 9 months)

  • A gradual onset of aching in the shoulder, where the joint tightens up.
  • Lying on the affected side is more painful at night.

Frozen phase (4 – 12 months)

  • Movement in the shoulder is reduced and stiffens up.
  • Everyday activities become more difficult.
  • Shoulder muscles may begin to waste away through lack of use.

Thawing phase (5 – 12 months)

  • Mobility gradually increases.
  • Pain gradually decreases.

Frozen Shoulder Treatments

Speak to a specialist at Adelaide Shoulder & Upper Limb Clinic as soon as possible as early treatment can help prevent severe stiffness setting in. It is also advised to keep the shoulder moving even if just small pendulum movements. Treatment actions may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling
  • Heat
  • Stretching exercises
  • Electrical stimulation of muscles and nerves
  • Cortisone injections
  • Surgery (only if all other treatment fails) – arthroscopic capsular release may be performed using keyhole surgery.
  • It is advised that an aggressive rehabilitation program is followed after surgery.

Most cases will resolve on their own or with physiotherapy over 1-3 years, but prevention remains the best cure. Frozen shoulder is often a side effect of shoulder surgery, and the lack of movement during the recovery process. You should follow your surgeon's exercise advice following surgery.