Adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder, also known as frozen shoulder, is a common condition that causes loss of motion in the shoulder. It can occur in only one shoulder or in both shoulders simultaneously.

The specific cause of adhesive capsulitis is unknown; however, it may develop slowly over time or come on suddenly. The condition most often affects people between 40 and 60 years of age and is more common in women and in patients with diabetes.

People who have suffered a shoulder injury, such as a rotator cuff tear, are at increased risk of developing frozen shoulder, as are people who have had an arm immobilized, such as in a sling following surgery.

Patients who suffer from adhesive capsulitis often experience these symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Inability to reach above the head
  • Limited range of motion that gradually worsens

The shoulder specialists at Lancaster Orthopedic Group can often diagnose adhesive capsulitis based on signs and symptoms alone after testing the range of motion in your shoulder. He or she may sometimes recommend an X-ray or MRI to rule out other conditions that can affect the shoulder, such as bursitis.

Treatment for adhesive capsulitis varies based on the amount of pain and stiffness. The symptoms will typically decrease on their own within two years, and anti-inflammatory medications combined with the application of a heating pad may provide relief.

If there is significant inflammation, an injection of corticosteroids into the shoulder may allow for easier movement. Some patients will also require physical therapy to fully regain shoulder motion. If pain and stiffness persists, arthroscopic surgery is sometimes necessary.