What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also referred to as “adhesive capsulitis”, is a painful condition in which the range of movement in the shoulder becomes limited.

Frozen shoulder occurs when the strong connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint (shoulder joint capsule) become thick, stiff, and inflamed. (The joint capsule contains ligaments that attach the top of the upper arm bone [humeral] to the shoulder socket, holding the joint in place. This is most commonly known as the “ball and socket” joint.

The condition is called “frozen” shoulder because the more pain that is felt, the less likely the shoulder will be used. Lack of use causes the shoulder capsule to thicken and becomes tight, making the shoulder even more difficult to move — it is “frozen” in its position.

Who is at risk for getting frozen shoulder?

Adults: most commonly between 40 and 60 years of age.

Gender: More common develops in women than men.

Recent shoulder injury: Shoulder injury or shoulder surgeries that results in the need to keep the shoulder from moving (i.e., by using a shoulder brace, sling, shoulder wrap, etc.). Examples include rotator cuff tear and fractures of the shoulder blade, collarbone or upper arm.

Diabetes: Between 10 and 20 percent of individuals with diabetes develop frozen shoulder.

Other health diseases and conditions: Includes stroke, hypothyroidism (under active thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), Parkinson’s and and heart disease. Stroke is a risk factor for frozen shoulder because movement of your arm / shoulder may be limited. Why other diseases and conditions increase the risk of developing a frozen shoulder is unknown.


Signs and symptoms of frozen shoulder: Symptoms of frozen shoulder are divided into three stages: • The “freezing” stage:
In this stage, the shoulder becomes stiff and is painful to move. The pain slowly increases. It may worsen at night. Inability to move the shoulder increases. This stage lasts 6 weeks to 9 months. • The “frozen” stage:
In this stage, pain may lessen, but the shoulder remains stiff. This makes it more difficult to complete daily tasks and activities. This stage lasts 2 to 6 months. • The “thawing” / recovery stage:
Within this stage, the pain lessens, and ability to move the shoulder slowly improves. Full or near full recovery occurs as normal strength and motion return. This recovery stage lasts about 6 months to 2 years. Contact NMA for a thorough evaluation and treatment options that best fit your needs.

frozen shoulderDiagnosing frozen shoulder

To diagnose frozen shoulder, your doctor should:

• Discuss your symptoms and review your medical history
• Conduct a physical exam of your arms and shoulders: The doctor will move your shoulder in appropriate directions to check your range of motion and if there is pain with movement. This type of exam, in which your doctor is moving your arm and not you, is called determining your “passive range of motion.”
• The doctor should also watch you move your shoulder to see your “active range of motion.
The two types of motion are compared. People with frozen shoulder have limited range of both active and passive motion.
• X-rays of the shoulder are also routinely taken to make sure the cause of the symptoms is not due to another condition of the shoulder, such as arthritis. Advanced imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are usually not needed to diagnose frozen shoulder. They may be taken to look for other pain conditions, such as rotator cuff tears.

What treatment options are available to those that have frozen shoulder or shoulder pain?

Treatment usually involves pain relief methods, like physical therapy, until the initial phase passes. If the pain persists along with limited range of motion, cell based therapy or therapies combined can help you regain motion if it doesn’t return on its own.

In about 80% of patients, nonsurgical treatment relieves pain and improves function in the shoulder.

Contact Nona Medical Arts to explore treatments to heal your shoulder injury or frozen shoulder.