Frozen Shoulder

An Overview on Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

What is frozen shoulder? Frozen shoulder, otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis, is a common condition marked by pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. Occurring in approximately 2% of the population, this condition typically affects patients between the ages of 40 and 60 years and females are much more likely to develop this condition. Van Nuys, Thousand Oaks and Los Angeles, California patients suffering from a “stiff shoulder” are advised to contact Dr. Mark Getelman, orthopedic shoulder specialist, for a diagnosis and treatment plan to alleviate symptoms related to a frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder occurs when the shoulder joint’s soft tissue thicken and becomes tight. Adhesions, or soft bands of tissue, may develop and lead to significant limited range of motion. Over time, the shoulder becomes difficult to move and the symptoms intensify.

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

The hallmark symptom of frozen shoulder is the inability to move the shoulder. The condition develops in three stages and patients experience several symptoms during each stage. Frozen shoulder stages include:

  • Freezing: Typically lasting from 6 weeks to 3-4 months, patients will gradually experience increased shoulder pain and some decreased mobility.
  • Frozen: During the 4-6 month stage, the maximum limitation of ROM is reaches and then the pain level may begin to lessen.
  • Thawing: Between the 6 month and 2 year mark, patients will begin to experience gradual restoration range of motion, decreased pain and better strength and function in the joint.

Frozen Shoulder Diagnosis

Frozen shoulder is diagnosed during a thorough physical examination and review of a patient’s medical history and symptoms. Dr. Getelman will move the affected joint in various directions to determine pain level and passive range of motion. A series of X-rays will be ordered to view the joint, and at times an MRI scan may be obtained to assess the soft tissues and confirm the diagnosis.

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Frozen Shoulder Treatment

Non-Surgical

This is a self-limited condition and in the vast majority of patients, it will eventually resolve on its own over 18-24 months. A number of non-surgical options may be recommended by Dr. Getelman to alleviate frozen shoulder symptoms, including rest, ice, medications, self-directed home stretching and some physical therapy.

Surgical

If symptoms are not alleviated, and the patient fails to progress with non-surgical measures, a surgical procedure may be necessary. The goal of frozen shoulder surgery is to release the stiffened joint tissue and restore the range of motion in a minimally invasive manner. A manipulation under anesthesia is initially performed where Dr. Getelman gently stretches the shoulder, causing the scar tissue and soft tissue to release thus improving the ROM. This typically releases the tight environment and increases mobility. During the procedure,  Dr. Getelman will then use the arthroscope to evaluate the released joint and utilize special instruments to cut through the any remaining tight areas of tissue scarring and control any bleeding to prevent any further scarring from developing. Combining this technique with a manipulation procedure under anesthesia is quite effective in treating frozen shoulder symptoms in patients.

For more resources on frozen shoulder, or additional information on stiff shoulder treatment options, contact the Van Nuys, Thousand Oaks and Los Angeles, California orthopedic office of Dr. Mark Getelman – shoulder specialist.