by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Frozen shoulder is a tightening of the shoulder joint. It results in a loss of movement and pain at the shoulder joint.
In frozen shoulder:
This condition may get worse over time. After a period of time, the shoulder may also improve spontaneously. This improvement is called thawing.
Frozen shoulder is caused by tightening of the soft tissues. This includes the capsule that surrounds the joint.
The cause of the tightening is usually not known.
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that increase your risk for frozen shoulder include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. The doctor will test the range of motion in your shoulder.
Testing may include:
Treatment focuses on:
Closed manipulation surgery is a forceful movement of the arm at the shoulder joint. It is done to loosen the stiffness. The surgery is performed under anesthesia. The procedure is followed by intensive physical therapy. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions after surgery.
In arthroscopic surgery, a small incision is made in the shoulder. Special small instruments are inserted through the incision. The tightened tissues are released. The shoulder is manipulated. Physical therapy must be done after this procedure. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions after surgery.
Capsular distension is often done as a combination of an arthrogram and corticosteroid injection. The doctor expands the shoulder joint by injecting salt water under pressure. The fluid may contain cortisone and may also contain a dye that allows the shape and character of the shoulder joint to be seen.
If you are diagnosed with a frozen shoulder, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help prevent frozen shoulder:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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Last reviewed October 2012 by John C. Keel, MD
Last Updated: 10/31/2012