Adhesive capsulitis, commonly referred to as frozen shoulder, is a common condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder. This condition is the result of a tightening or thickening of the capsule of connective tissue that protects the structures of the shoulder. Although the exact cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, it often occurs after a shoulder injury or shoulder surgery, or as a complication of diabetes. Symptoms of frozen shoulder tend to worsen over time, however, even without treatment, symptoms may resolve on their own in about two years time.
Symptoms of Adhesive Capsulitis
Patients with frozen shoulder often initially experience pain in the shoulder. Some individuals may experience pain that may worsen at night. Pain may subside and stiffness then occurs, causing limited range of motion that gradually worsens as the joint stiffness increases. Eventually, the shoulder may shift into a thawing phase, during which pain and stiffness subside and range of motion is slowly restored.
Diagnosis of Adhesive Capsulitis
Adhesive capsulitis may be diagnosed after a review of symptoms and a physical examination of the shoulder. Additional tests may include X-rays or an MRI scan to rule out any other conditions that may be causing symptoms. A doctor may also test the individual's range of motion by having the patient perform different actions with the arm and shoulder.
Treatment of Adhesive Capsulitis
Treatment for frozen shoulder usually focuses on managing pain and retaining range of motion as the condition progresses. Treatment may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Corticosteroid injections
- Joint distension
- Physical therapy
A doctor may also perform a shoulder manipulation procedure by moving the shoulder joint in different directions to help loosen the tightened tissue. If other treatment is unsuccessful, arthroscopic surgery may be performed to stretch or release the contracted joint capsule.