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What is Adhesive Capsulitis or Frozen Shoulder?

What is Adhesive Capsulitis or Frozen Shoulder?

Written by Alex Phan - Osteopath | 3rd February 2024

Have you been experiencing shoulder pain lately? Do you feel like it has progressively become stiffer and you have noticed a restriction in range of motion? Then you may be suffering from Adhesive Capsulitis, otherwise known as ‘frozen shoulder’.

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is an inflammatory condition that causes thickening of the shoulder joint capsule. This results in the gradual stiffening and significant restriction in range of motion at the shoulder joint.

Phases of frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder can last anywhere from 1 to 3 years and has three significant phases.

- The first phase known as: Freezing (2-9 months) which is characterised by the initial painful phase with gradual restrictions in shoulder range of motion.

- The second phase: Frozen (4-12 months) is where the shoulder joint is significantly restricted however the pain is not as severe as the first phase,

- Last phase: Thawing (12-42 months) is the gradual return of shoulder movement.

You may be more at risk of developing this condition if you suffer from:

- Diabetes mellitus

- Stroke

- Thyroid disorder

- Shoulder injuries

- Dupuytren disease

- Parkinsons disease

- Cancer

Additionally, females are four times more likely to develop this condition than males.

What are the signs and symptoms of frozen shoulder?

- Sudden onset of unilateral anterior shoulder pain

- Restriction in active and passive range of motion: particularly shoulder abduction and external rotation

- Functional impairments, such as: hanging clothes, fastening ones seat belt, taking off a shift, brushing hair

- Limited reaching, particularly overhead

- Occasional neck pain but not always

In most cases the condition will resolve itself but depending on the stage and severity, it can affect activities of daily living, work and leisure activities. In the early stages such as ‘freezing’, pain control and reduction of inflammation is the goal. This usually involves pharmacotherapy and the initiation of physical therapy. The treatment and management involved in the ‘frozen stage’ focuses in regaining range of motion through more intense physical therapy. More aggressive interventions such as hydro-dilatation, manipulation under anaesthesia and arthroscopic capsular release may be considered.

What can you do at home to help yourself recover from frozen shoulder?

Here are some exercises you can do at home that can help with regaining range of motion in the shoulder:

Pendulum swings

Perform 4 sets and gradually increase the circumference of the circle

Wall walks

Perform 3 sets of 12

Lying passive shoulder flexion with a broomstick

Perform 3 sets of 12

If you find that these exercises are not providing enough relief or if you need some clarification on how to perform them or just need some more advice, it may be a good idea to come into the clinic and see one of the Osteopaths at Canterbury Health Hub. Here we can provide a more comprehensive treatment and management program that is tailored to you and your condition.