Idiopathic Adhesive Capsulitis (“Frozen Shoulder”)

What is a frozen shoulder?

A “frozen shoulder” is a common shoulder condition characterised by pain and stiffness.  The capsule (lining of the joint) is found to be thickened, inflamed and tight which restricts movement of the joint. A typical frozen shoulder goes through 3 phases; the “freezing” phase (pain is more severe than the stiffness), the “frozen” phase (painful and stiff) followed by the “thawing” (stiffness more severe than pain) phase.

What causes the condition?

The cause of a frozen shoulder is most commonly unknown (also known as idiopathic) but it can also be secondary to medical problems such as diabetes or an underactive thyroid gland. A history of a minor shoulder injury that appeared to trigger the condition is common.

Who does it typically affect?

It typically affects those in middle age (40-60 years old usually) and women more commonly than men.

How long does it last for?

This is variable, with some patients going through the complete cycle of phases in a matter of a few months whilst in others it can take up to 2-3 years for the symptoms to resolve.

Does it require any treatment?

Although the majority of patients with frozen shoulders will find their symptoms resolve over time with no specific treatment required, some patients decide to undergo non-surgical or surgical treatment in order to achieve a more rapid return to normality than would otherwise have been possible. It has been recognised that some patients (roughly one third) that do not have any treatment for the condition will have some residual ongoing stiffness even after the disease process has run its course. Treatment options can be discussed with me when we meet in clinic.

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