Frozen shoulder is the lay term for the condition known in health care as Adhesive Capsulitis. The term adhesive capsulitis implies that the shoulder joint capsule has adhesions and inflammation that limits the motion of the shoulder. While this condition is common, its cause is not well understood. We do know, however, that this condition is more common in females than in males, the non-dominate shoulder is more affected than the dominant shoulder, and the prevalence is more common after the age of 40. It takes between six months and three years to stabilize and regress. Unfortunately, there is often a residual permanent reduction in shoulder motion. This will discuss the effects of this condition, the management options, and will provide the reader with information on how to self-manage this malady.

Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder:

  • Decreased shoulder motion
  • Reduced arm swing while walking
  • Holding the arm in a protective manner near the body
  • Stooped rounded shoulders
  • Neck and back pain

Adhesions are fibrotic bands of scar tissue which join the surfaces of two anatomic surfaces. With time, adhesions tend to expand in breadth while they tighten and bind normal motion. The shoulder has a propensity for developing adhesions. If shoulder joint inflammation and fibrotic adhesions combine, the condition we know as frozen shoulder develops.

Due to its elastic capsule, a normal shoulder joint has the widest ranges of motion of any joint in the body

When adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder) is present, adhesions between the surfaces of the joint capsule reduce the motion of the shoulder. The enfolding capsule is thought to adhere to itself in the inferior portion of the capsule.