Also known as adhesive capsulitis, a frozen shoulder is a common condition that develops over time and limits the range of motion of your shoulder joint. This condition occurs when the tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint known as the capsule becomes thicker and tighter until it contracts and forms scar tissue. The condition most commonly affects women between 40 and 60 years of age.
A frozen shoulder often occurs for no discernible reason. Some patients develop a frozen shoulder after a traumatic injury to the shoulder, but this is not the usual cause. Patients with diabetes have a higher risk for developing the condition.
The shoulder is comprised of three bones and is a “ball in socket” type of joint. The three bones that make up the shoulder are the upper arm bone (humerus), the collarbone (clavicle), and the shoulder blade (scapula). The humerus fits in a little pocket in the shoulder blade, creating the “ball in socket” visual. Synovial fluid in the shoulder helps to keep the joint lubricated for easier mobility while strong connective tissue surrounds the joint.
Frozen shoulder does not have any direct causes associated with it. However, frozen shoulder affects 10%-20% of people with diabetes. Other causes include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and if the shoulder has been immobilized for a long period of time.
Most patients with frozen shoulder first experience a dull aching pain when moving the shoulder. As the pain increases, people tend to restrict use of the shoulder, which increases stiffness until all range of motion is lost. Sleeping on the same side as the affected shoulder as well as normal daily activities like brushing hair and dressing can become extremely painful.
Moreover, exercise and stretching the shoulder are the primary means to treat frozen shoulder. Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone injections may also be prescribed. Most cases of frozen shoulder are resolved non-operatively. However, if the problem is not resolved, surgery may be recommended. The surgeon may perform an arthroscopic capsular release to break up the adhesions. The surgery is an outpatient procedure and can be performed under regional or general anesthesia. Physical therapy following surgery is important in order to regain maximum mobility.