Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

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Shoulder pain symptoms and signs

Shoulder pain can be a result of injury or disease of the shoulder joint. Injury can affect any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. Injury can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, menisci (plural for meniscus), and bones of the joint.

Common injuries of the shoulder can lead to inflammation of the bursae (bursitis) or tendons (tendonitis) and result in rotator cuff dysfunction as well as instability and frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder facts

  • Frozen shoulder is the result of scarring, thickening, and shrinkage of the joint capsule.
  • Any injury to the shoulder can lead to a frozen shoulder.
  • A frozen shoulder is usually diagnosed during an examination.
  • A frozen shoulder usually requires aggressive treatment.

What is a frozen shoulder?

A frozen shoulder is a shoulder joint with significant loss of its range of motion in all directions. 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 medically referred to as adhesive capsulitis.

What causes a frozen shoulder?

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, including tendinitis, bursitis, and rotator cuff injury (rotator cuff syndrome). Frozen shoulders occur more frequently in patients with risk factors of 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.

What are symptoms and signs of a frozen shoulder?

Symptoms and signs of a frozen shoulder include pain, stiffness, and loss of range of motion of the shoulder. The shoulder range of motion is limited when either the patient or an examiner attempts to move the joint. The shoulder can develop increased pain with use. These symptoms can make sleep very uncomfortable.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2016
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