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Adhesive capsulitis (“Frozen shoulder”): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About adhesive capsulitis (“Frozen shoulder”)

Adhesive capsulitis is an inflammatory condition of the shoulder joint causing limitation of movement around it. It is also called “Frozen Shoulder”. It affects the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint.

Adhesive capsulitis (“Frozen shoulder”): Incidence, age and sex

Adhesive capsulitis is a fairly common disease of adulthood, mainly seen in the fourth to fifth decade. It seems to be more frequent in women than men.

Signs and symptoms of adhesive capsulitis (“Frozen shoulder”): Diagnosis

A person with a frozen shoulder may have stiffness of the affected joint associated with limited range of movement. At times, dull aching pain at the shoulder joint may prevent the use of that shoulder joint. Moreover actions like combing hair, buttoning of shirt become increasingly difficult in a person with a frozen shoulder.

Causes and prevention of adhesive capsulitis (“Frozen shoulder”)

Adhesive capsulitis is a condition wherein the capsule around the shoulder joint shrinks and develops stiffness, causing restricted movement at the joint. Occasionally, some adhesions may also form in this capsule which further deteriorates the range of movement. No apparent causes of adhesive capsulitis has been established. But a few factors are seen to precipitate the occurrence of this frozen shoulder. Such factors are diabetes, thyroid disorders, prolonged immobilisation of shoulder joint and cardiac disease.

Adhesive capsulitis (“Frozen shoulder”): Complications

There are no complications of a frozen shoulder except for complete restriction of movement in the affected shoulder joint. This may be seen if the episodes of adhesive capsulitis are ignored.

Adhesive capsulitis (“Frozen shoulder”): Treatment

Adhesive capsulitis is an easily diagnosed condition by accurate medical history and physical examination. Investigations have no place in the diagnosis of this disorder. But your doctor may like to conduct some investigations like X-rays to exclude other causes which may mimic similar clinical symptoms.

Adhesive capsulitis is an absolutely treatable condition. The patient with this disorder may need to be prescribed analgesics for pain relief. Moist heat packs also help in relieving pain. It is recommended to consult a physical therapist who can plan an appropriate exercise regime for the affected joint. Joint stretching and strengthening exercises help in increasing the range of movement around the affected joint. In occasional instances, when these measures fail to accomplish a satisfactory result, surgical intervention may be considered. The capsule can be made to lose its stiffness by cutting through it in a process called arthroscopy. Alternatively, manipulation surgery under anaesthesia may be considered in which the doctor vigorously moves the arm of the patient at the affected shoulder joint, to break the capsule adhesions.