Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, is often idiopathic in origin. This means we are not sure why it happens. It is most often seen in women (though occasionally in men) usually between the ages of 40 to 60. Patients with diabetes or thyroid disease are more prone to have the problem. It is caused by a contraction (tightening) of ligaments and capsular tissues around the ball part of the shoulder which limits its rotation causing a loss of motion.
Symptoms can be chronic. There is usually no history of injury. Many patients complain of loss of motion over several months. However, the pathology usually begins many months prior to the first symptoms noticed by the patient. Symptoms can include painful limited motion, pain at night which may interfere with sleep, and the limited motion may decrease the ability to do simple daily tasks like fastening a bra or combing your hair. Diagnosis is usually made with a physical exam showing the limited range of motion. Occasionally MRI is required.
Treatment usually consists of extensive physical therapy and steroidal and non-steroidal oral medications. In some cases a steroid injection into the shoulder helps relieve pain. Physical therapy can take several months but usually only therapy. In rare cases resistant to physical therapy, arthroscopic surgery to release the capsule followed by manipulation under anesthesia is required.