by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Frozen shoulder is a tightening of the tissue around the shoulder joint. It results in a loss of movement and pain at the shoulder joint.
In frozen shoulder:
This condition may get worse over time. After a period of time, the shoulder may also improve spontaneously. This improvement is called thawing.
Frozen shoulder is caused by inflammation and scarring of the soft tissues of the shoulder. This includes the capsule that surrounds the joint.
The cause of the tightening is usually not known.
Frozen shoulder is more likely to occur in women between the ages of 40-65 years old.
Factors that increase your risk for frozen shoulder include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The range of motion in your shoulder will be tested.
Images may be taken of your shoulder. This can be done with:
Treatment focuses on:
Closed manipulation surgery is a forceful movement of the arm at the shoulder joint. It is done to loosen the stiffness. The surgery is performed under anesthesia. The procedure is followed by intensive physical therapy.
In arthroscopic surgery, a small incision is made in the shoulder. Special small instruments are inserted through the incision. The tightened tissues are released. The shoulder is manipulated. Physical therapy must be done after this procedure.
Capsular distension is often done as a combination of an arthrogram and corticosteroid injection. The doctor expands the shoulder joint by injecting salt water under pressure. The fluid may contain cortisone and may also contain a dye that allows the shape and character of the shoulder joint to be seen.
Frozen shoulder may recur. To help prevent frozen shoulder:
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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Last reviewed September 2018 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 1/21/2015
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