Frozen Shoulder Treatment Denver

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

an inflamed joint capsule

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is an inflammatory condition characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder that causes significantly reduced range of motion of the joint over time. Adhesions, or stiff bands of scar tissue, develop in the shoulder joint capsule for reasons not fully understood. As these adhesions develop, the capsule of the shoulder thickens and becomes tight, which results in decreased active and passive range of motion of the shoulder. Women 40-60 years of age are most commonly affected, but the condition can occur in men and other age groups. The condition is most commonly associated with diabetes, thyroid conditions, Parkinson’s, cardiac disease, or shoulder immobilization due to surgery, fracture, or other injury.

What are the stages of a Frozen Shoulder?

  • Freezing Stage: Pain in the shoulder slowly increases resulting in increasing loss of range of motion. Average duration of this stage is six weeks to nine months.
  • Frozen Stage: Pain typically begins to improve during this stage but stiffness of the shoulder joint remains making activities of daily living more difficult. Average duration of this stage is four to six months.
  • Thawing Stage: Shoulder range of motion slowly improves. Complete return to normal, or as close to normal as possible, strength and function may take six months to two years on average.

How Do You treat a Frozen Shoulder?

Ninety percent of patients with frozen shoulder will improve with conservative, non-surgical treatments. The conservative treatments include: physical therapy to restore range of motion and pain control with anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS). Cortisone injections into the shoulder joint may be helpful to reduce the inflammation associated with adhesive capsulitis. Surgical treatment is reserved for patients that have continued pain or loss of motion despite prolonged conservative treatment. There are two procedures typically used separately or in combination to treat frozen shoulder. A manipulation under anesthesia is a procedure where a patient is put to sleep with an anesthetic and the shoulder is moved in a manner that is intended to break up or stretch the adhesions in the joint capsule to improve shoulder range of motion. The second procedure is a shoulder arthroscopy where a surgeon uses a video camera and small specialized tools inserted through a series of small incisions to cut through the tight portions of the joint capsule to improve range of motion. Both procedures must be followed by consistent physical therapy to maintain the improved range of motion and prevent the adhesions from forming again.