What is a frozen shoulder?

A frozen shoulder develops when the connective tissues surrounding the shoulder joint thickens and tightens. This condition is also known as adhesive capsulitis due to the adhesions that result from the scar tissue. This thickening can cause pain and stiffness of the shoulder and contribute to a loss of shoulder and arm movement. In some cases, there is a complete loss of shoulder mobility making simple daily tasks painful and difficult. Dr. Answorth A. Allen, an orthopedic shoulder specialist serving patients in Manhattan, New York City, Westchester, Long Island and surrounding areas, has the knowledge and understanding, as well as substantial experience in treating patients who have experienced a frozen shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder | Manhattan NY

What causes a frozen shoulder?

The causes of adhesive capsulitis are not fully understood. There are some underlying health conditions that can increase a patient’s risk for developing a frozen shoulder, which include:

  • Diabetes: A frozen shoulder is more common in diabetic patients, and they typically experience more severe and longer-lasting symptoms.
  • Age and sex: A frozen shoulder is seen more often in women over the age of 40.
  • Immobility: If the shoulder is not moved for an extended period of time, usually as a result of a prior injury, can contribute to symptoms of a frozen shoulder.

What are the stages of a frozen shoulder?

Adhesive capsulitis develops gradually in three different stages:

Freezing: Symptoms gradually worsen with a reduction in shoulder range of motion. This stage can last 6 weeks to 9 months.

Frozen: Shoulder stiffness is still present making daily activities difficult, but pain begins to diminish. This period can last 4 to 6 months.

Thawing: Shoulder range of motion continually improves, and most patients return to normal shoulder function. This stage can last 6 months to 2 years.

What are the symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder symptoms develop gradually and worsen over time and it is common for symptoms to spontaneously resolve within a few years of onset. Common complaints include:

  • A dull ache that worsens with arm movement
  • Decreased shoulder strength and range of motion
  • Shoulder joint stiffness accompanied by pain

Who is at risk for having a frozen shoulder?

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing frozen shoulder:

  • Age and sex (females have frozen shoulder more frequently than males)
  • People who are 40 and older, particularly women, are more likely to have frozen shoulder.
  • Immobility or reduced mobility – Individuals who have had prolonged immobility or reduced mobility of the shoulder are at higher risk of developing frozen shoulder. Immobility may be the result of many factors, including:
    • Rotator Cuff Injury
    • Broken arm
    • Stroke
    • Recovery from surgery
  • Systemic diseases: Individuals who have certain diseases appear more likely to develop frozen shoulder. Diseases that might increase risk include:

    • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
    • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • Tuberculosis
    • Parkinson’s disease

How is a frozen shoulder diagnosed?

Dr. Allen can diagnose a frozen shoulder after obtaining a comprehensive medical history and physical examination. Diagnostic imaging, including x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be needed to identify damage to any other structures within the shoulder.

What is the treatment for a frozen shoulder?

Non-surgical treatment:

Patients diagnosed with a frozen shoulder generally recover with conservative treatments only. Avoiding weight-bearing or shoulder strengthening exercises is recommended to prevent further damage. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can decrease shoulder pain and inflammation. Injecting corticosteroids into your shoulder joint may help decrease pain and improve shoulder mobility, especially in the early stages of the process. Dr. Allen will recommend physical therapy to restore shoulder range of motion once the pain has lessened.

Surgical treatment:

If conservative treatment was unsuccessful, Dr. Allen may recommend a “capsular release” or “lysis of adhesions” surgical procedure to remove the scar tissue and stretch the joint capsule. An arthroscopic approach to this procedure is preferred as the use of a small camera (arthroscope) allows for a more controlled and precise release of the shoulder capsule. The smaller incisions with this minimally invasive surgical technique result in a faster recovery period for patients to return to their normal activities. Following surgery, Dr. Allen will recommend aggressive physical therapy and the occasional use of a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine to assist with increasing range of motion.


Shoulder Specialist

Frozen shoulder is a condition where scar tissue builds up in the shoulder, reducing movement and causing pain. This condition can be caused by underlying health conditions such as diabetes, or from age or lack of mobility. Shoulder specialist Doctor Answorth Allen provides diagnosis and treatment for patients in Manhattan, New York City, Westchester, Long Island and surrounding areas who are experiencing a decreased range of motion in the shoulder. Contact Dr. Allen’s team today!