Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, usually develops without any identifiable cause. It is a painful condition that almost universally results in decreased range of motion of the shoulder joint. It may develop gradually, preventing one from realizing the magnitude of the problem. On the other hand, the symptoms can be quite sudden and severe with nearly complete loss of shoulder motion. Adults in their forties and fifties are most at risk; however, anyone with a previous shoulder injury may be affected. Persons with a history of diabetes are at greater risk for adhesive capsulitis than are persons who do not have diabetes. The condition can often be present in both shoulders and may resist all forms of treatment. Radiographs (x-rays) usually are needed to rule out other possible causes of shoulder stiffness, such as degenerative arthritis, tumors, and shoulder dislocation.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Frozen shoulder has been termed a “benign” process because it tends to improve over the course of 1 to 3 years. Unfortunately, many patients cannot endure the pain or the limitation of motion while they wait for the symptoms to resolve. As a result, physical therapy plays an important role in the conservative management of this condition.

When frozen shoulder develops spontaneously, without a prior shoulder injury or operation, conservative management with physical therapy is preferred. However, when this condition develops after an operation on the shoulder, a more aggressive treatment plan, including possible further surgical intervention, may be necessary. Analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs may help to reduce pain, but use of these drugs has to be combined with a supervised therapy program for maximum relief. Injection of steroid-type medications into the joint itself often is helpful.

The DOs
• Take your medications as prescribed.
• Undertake a supervised therapy program that combines range of motion exercises with strengthening exercises.

The DON’Ts
• Do not discontinue your physical therapy without consulting your doctor.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If you notice shoulder pain that is not responding to rest and is associated with a decrease in the overall range of motion of the shoulder joint.