Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

As the name implies, frozen shoulder, also known as Adhesive Capsulitis, refers to the loss of movement and feeling of pain in the shoulder joint.

What causes Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen Shoulder, or Adhesive Capsulitis, is caused by inflammation or tightening of the capsule that surrounds the shoulder joint. This effectively reduces the space available in the joint for the shoulder to move.

Often no specific cause is found but reasons for the inflammation may include:

  • Shoulder injuries (See our Fractures and Injuries Page)
  • Bursitis and Rotator cuff tears
  • Past shoulder surgeries that have left scar tissue
  • The shoulder being immobilised for a long period of time, perhaps due to a different injury
  • Other conditions that may increase the chance of frozen shoulder such as diabetes or thyroid conditions

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the shoulder joint – which can radiate into the upper arm
  • Dull ache in shoulder
  • Stiffness in the shoulder
  • Limited movement of the shoulder
  • Difficulty performing everyday tasks, such as putting on a seat belt or brushing your hair

How is Frozen Shoulder Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose frozen shoulder, Mr Soong Chua will take a comprehensive history and perform a physical examination to assess pain levels and range of movement. An X-ray or MRI may also be needed to confirm the diagnosis of Adhesive Capsulitis or rule out other causes for shoulder pain.

What are the Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder?

Depending on the severity of the case, treatment options will differ. Some cases may be treated non-surgically, with physiotherapy exercises or an injection called a hydrodilatation. In selected cases, manipulation under anaesthetic may also be suggested.

Hydrodilatation and Manipulation under Anaesthetic (MUA)

Hydrodilatation and Manipulation under anaesthetic may be done separately or at the same time.

A hydrodilatation procedure is an injection into the shoulder of local anaesthetic, cortisone and sterile fluid (saline) to try and expand the space inside the joint, reducing pain and allowing the shoulder to move again.

Manipulation under anaesthetic (MUA) involves stretching out the shoulder joint under a short anaesthetic to try and increase the movement in the shoulder.

Shoulder Arthroscopy and Capsular Release

Some cases may require surgical treatment. In this case, Mr Soong Chua may recommend a Shoulder Arthroscopy and Capsular Release to release the tightened capsule.

A Shoulder Arthroscopy is keyhole surgery, that utilises a small camera to aid in repairing your shoulder. The surgical procedure used to treat frozen shoulder usually involves the removal of scarred tissue, and release of tightened ligaments and capsule to restore movement to the shoulder.

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