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  • Writer's pictureAnnabel Ngo

Frozen Shoulder: What Is It?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness, pain,

and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. It can significantly impact a person's daily activities and quality of life. Frozen shoulder is a condition that affects the shoulder joint, causing

inflammation and thickening of the surrounding connective tissue called the shoulder capsule.

Cause of Frozen shoulder:

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not yet fully known, however, it mostly occurs following

shoulder injuries, immobilization, or in individuals with certain medical conditions, for example,

diabetes, thyroid disorders or autoimmune diseases. The condition commonly affects people in their 50s and 60s, rarely affecting people younger than 40, where women are more affected than men.

Recognizing symptoms:

The most common symptoms of frozen shoulder include stiffness, pain and limited range in the

shoulder joint. These symptoms usually occur in three stages:

1. Freezing:

* Stiffness and pain increases, whereas range of motion decreases; making it harder to

perform easy tasks

2. Frozen:

* Pain may decrease, however, range of motion in the shoulder joint may become

even more restricted

3. Thawing:

* There is a gradual improvement in shoulder mobility

Diagnosing frozen shoulder:

Diagnosing frozen shoulder involves a combination of medical history review and physical

examination by testing range of motion. Imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans can rule out other problems.

Treatment options (non-invasive):

1. Physiotherapy:

* Exercises and stretching to improve range of motion

2. Massage Therapy:

* Massaging the muscles surrounding the shoulder capsule to alleviate tightness and


3. Pain management:

* Over the counter medications

Treatment options (invasive):

1. Steroid injections:

* Corticosteroid injections to decrease pain and improve shoulder mobility

2. Hydrodilatation

* Injecting sterile water into the shoulder capsule to stretch the tissue, promoting

improved joint movement. This can also be combined with corticosteroid injections

to assist in pain management.

3. Shoulder manipulation:

* This procedure involves manipulating the shoulder joint while the patient is under

general anesthesia to help break up scar tissue and improve range of motion

4. Arthroscopic Surgery:

In severe cases, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended to remove scar tissue and adhesions from the shoulder joint. This involves two small incisions, where a small telescope is inserted to view the joint and surgical equipment is inserted into the other incision to cut and remove the adhesions.

Recovery and Rehabilitation:

Following invasive treatment, proper rest and rehabilitation plays a vital role in regaining shoulder

function. Physical therapy exercises include stretching and strengthening exercises are crucial in

restoring range of motion and building muscle strength. The duration of recovery varies depending on treatment given and severity of the condition.


Frozen shoulder can be a challenging condition, however, with proper understanding and

management, it is possible to alleviate pain and regain shoulder function. Early diagnosis,

appropriate treatment and dedicated rehabilitation are key to achieving a successful recovery.

If you suspect you may have frozen shoulder, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Remember, there are a number of effective strategies to overcome the limitations imposed by frozen shoulder.

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