What is a frozen shoulder?

The medical term for a frozen shoulder is ‘Adhesive Capsulitis’ and affects up to one in 20 people in the UK. It is most common in women aged between 40–60 years, as well as people with previous shoulder injuries, diabetes or conditions such as stroke or heart disease.

The symptoms of a frozen shoulder are similar to many other painful shoulder complaints and may sometimes mimic osteoarthritis due to the pain and stiffness experienced. In a frozen shoulder the shoulder capsule becomes thickened leading to stiffness and limited movement. Adhesive capsulitis is diagnosed and distinguished from arthritis of the shoulder as an x-ray will be normal and not exhibit the tell-tale signs of osteoarthritis.

Sometimes a frozen shoulder will improve without treatment over a couple of years, although 50% of people will continue to experience pain and stiffness up to seven years after the condition started if they do not seek treatment. A specialised treatment for adhesive capsulitis is hydrodilation whereby the shoulder joint is injected to inflate the capsule and instantly stops the stiffness. Other treatments include physiotherapy, painkillers and corticosteroid injections. A number of frozen shoulder exercises have been found to be an effective treatment.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of a painful or frozen shoulder see “Why does my shoulder hurt?” by expert Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr Simon Owen-Johnstone.

Visit Consultant-Search if you are interested in contacting a shoulder specialist.

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