Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is stiffness, pain, and
limited range of movement in your
shoulder. It may happen after an injury or overuse or from a disease such as diabetes or
a stroke. The tissues around
the joint stiffen, scar tissue forms, and shoulder movements become difficult
and painful. The condition usually comes on slowly, then goes away slowly over the course of a year or more.
What causes frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder can develop when you stop using the joint
normally because of pain, injury, or a chronic health condition, such as
diabetes or a stroke. Any shoulder problem can lead to frozen shoulder if you
do not work to keep full range of motion.
Frozen shoulder occurs:
After surgery or injury.
often in people 40 to 70 years old.
More often in women (especially
in postmenopausal women) than in men.
Most often in people with
How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?
Your doctor may suspect frozen shoulder if a
physical exam reveals limited shoulder movement. An X-ray may be done to see whether symptoms are from another condition such as arthritis or a broken bone.
How is it treated?
Treatment for frozen shoulder usually starts with
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and
application of heat to the affected area, followed by gentle stretching. Ice
and medicines (including corticosteroid injections) may also be used to
reduce pain and swelling. And physical therapy can help increase your range of
motion. A frozen shoulder can take a year or more to get better.
If treatment is not helping, surgery is sometimes done to loosen some of the tight tissues around the shoulder. Two surgeries are often done. In one surgery, called manipulation under anesthesia, you are put to sleep and then your arm is moved into positions that stretch the tight tissue. The other surgery uses an arthroscope to cut through tight tissues and scar tissue. These surgeries can both be done at the same time.
Can frozen shoulder be prevented?
Gentle, progressive range-of-motion exercises, stretching, and
using your shoulder more may help prevent frozen shoulder after surgery or an injury. Experts don't know what causes some cases of frozen shoulder, and it may not be possible to prevent these. But be patient and follow your doctor's advice. Frozen shoulder nearly always gets better over time.
Other Places To Get Help
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
6300 North River Road
Rosemont, IL 60018-4262
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of
musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS
website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury
prevention, and wellness and exercise.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Frozen shoulder. In JF Sarwark, ed., Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed., pp. 291–294. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
McMahon PJ, Kaplan LD (2006). Sports medicine. In HB Skinner, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 4th ed., pp.
163–220. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.