Treatment of Adhesive Capsulitis  

By: Mims Ochsner, MD

Adhesive capsulitis, commonly known as “frozen shoulder,” is a cause of shoulder pain and stiffness caused by inflammation and subsequent shrinkage of the shoulder joint capsule. Without treatment, adhesive capsulitis typically resolves, but this can take several months and, in some rare cases, over a year.  

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is unknown. Some research indicates that it may be secondary to post viral neuritis. It most commonly affects women ages 40-60, and underlying risk factors include diabetes and hypothyroid. The clinical course of the frozen shoulder begins with an initial inflammatory phase characterized by excruciating pain. The pain eventually subsides and is replaced by a “frozen” phase marked by stiffness, with an eventual “thawing” phase where motion returns.  

Frozen shoulder can be difficult to manage, given its long-drawn-out course. However, anti-inflammatories, cortisone injections, and aggressive physical therapy typically help with symptoms. If pain and stiffness persist after conservative measures have failed, surgical capsular release of the shoulder can improve range of motion and outcomes in select patients.  


See Mims Ochsner, MD speak at the GAPA 2021 CME Conference.

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