Frozen Shoulder

What is Adhesive Capsulitis?

Adhesive capsulitis, commonly referred to as a frozen shoulder, occurs when the joint capsule and soft tissues surrounding the shoulder become inflamed, swollen and contracted. This causes bands of scar tissue to restrict joint mobility, which then leads to pain, stiffness, a limited range and gradual loss of overall motion in the shoulder joint. This loss of motion ultimately leads to loss of function for the entire upper extremity, especially with reaching and overhead activities.

Causes of Adhesive Capsulitis

Although no definitive cause has been identified, there are a number of risk factors predisposing a person to developing adhesive capsulitis. Factors may include shoulder trauma, surgery, diabetes, inflammatory conditions (such as rotator cuff tear, bursitis, or tendonitis) and inactivity of the shoulder. Autoimmune disease and some thyroid conditions also appear to be linked to adhesive capsulitis.

Symptoms of Adhesive Capsulitis

  • Pain
  • Decreased range of motion in your shoulder
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased function – including daily living activities such as dressing, bathing, driving etc.

Physical Therapy Treatment of Adhesive Capsulitis

  • Stretching and manual therapy techniques – including joint mobilization
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Patient education for posture and arm positioning
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Ultrasound therapy, cold compression, heat therapy and other modalities for pain, as well as to improve tissue flexibility
  • Activities to regain functional use of the shoulder
Outpatient Physical Therapy