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Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

Frozen Shoulder Overview

A frozen shoulder is a shoulder joint that has lost a substantial amount of its range of motion in all directions due to scarring around the joint. The range of motion is limited not only when the patient attempts motion, but also when the doctor attempts to move the joint fully while the patient relaxes. A frozen shoulder is also referred to as adhesive capsulitis.

Frozen Shoulder Causes

A frozen shoulder is the result of inflammation, scarring, thickening, and shrinkage of the capsule that surrounds the normal shoulder joint. Any injury to the shoulder can lead to a frozen shoulder as a result of subsequent scar formation of the shoulder capsule. Injuries that can lead to a frozen shoulder include tendinitis, bursitis, and rotator cuff injury. Frozen shoulders occur more frequently in patients with diabetes, chronic inflammatory arthritis of the shoulder, or after chest or breast surgery. Long-term immobility of the shoulder joint can put people at risk to develop a frozen shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

A frozen shoulder may or may not be associated with pain in the shoulder. Initial pain and tenderness may resolve and leave the shoulder with painless but limited range of motion. The scarring of the shoulder joint capsule may limit the ability to move the shoulder fully in all directions. The limitation is usually most apparent when attempting to move the elbow completely away from the body.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/8/2014

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