Fort Lauderdale Orthopedics Explains: Adhesive Capsulitis or “Frozen Shoulder”

Because we use our arms so much, anything that limits our ability to move them has a huge effect on our everyday lives. Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, causes pain and stiffness in your shoulder. It can occur following a shoulder injury such as a fracture or rotator cuff tear, inflammation from bursitis or arthritis, or may just occur for an unknown reason (termed “idiopathic”).

If the shoulder is immobilized, strong connective tissue surrounding the joint called the shoulder capsule can tighten up, thicken and even form scar tissue we term “adhesions.” This can inhibit the normal lubrication and movement of the shoulder, which gradually gets tighter and stiffer. This is similar to an iron barn door hinge starting to rust. If it isn’t lubricated and opened up to break off the rust, eventually the door rusts shut.

The natural history of frozen shoulder includes a “freezing up phase” (3-6 months), a “frozen phase” (3-6 months), and a “thawing phase” (3-6 months), but intractable pain and restricted function often necessitates earlier treatment. This may include physical therapy, manipulation by a doctor to stretch the shoulder under anesthesia, or arthroscopic removal of the adhesions.

A few factors put one at increased risk of developing frozen shoulder.

  • Age and sex. Adults from 40-60 years old are more likely to develop frozen shoulder, and women are more likely to be afflicted than men.
  • Immobilization. If your shoulder has been immobilized for a period of time – whether from surgery or injury – you may be at risk.
  • Certain diseases. Some diseases associated with frozen shoulder include diabetes, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), Parkinson’s disease and cardiac disease.

Should you experience shoulder pain that limits your range of motion for an extended period, call the experts at Fort Lauderdale Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at (954) 400-5544. We can recommend treatments that may help you get your shoulder back to normal.

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