by Boston Gregg

Prolonged shoulder pain? Decreased range of mobility, and joint stiffness? Could be frozen shoulder.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder (Adhesive capsulitis) is a common orthopedic condition that gradually limits the range of mobility in the shoulder joint. Often caused by the development of adhesions or stiff bands of tissue.

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. Three bones meet to make this joint: the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone). The humerus fits into a shallow socket in scapula held together by the shoulder capsule (strong connective tissue). Synovial fluid lubricates the shoulder capsule stimulating mobility. This often painful condition can worsen over time if proper treatment is not sought.

The Stages:

  1. Freezing Shoulder:
    • Gradual decrease in range of motion.
    • Shoulder movement can be painful.
  2. Frozen Shoulder:
    • Stiffness is likely at its peak.
    • Pain may persist or decrease.
    • Daily activities may become painful.
  3. Thawing Shoulder:
    • Improved range of motion.
    • Decreased stiffness.
    • Return to normalcy.

Symptoms for each stage may persist for weeks or even months at a time. If left untreated, over time a Frozen Shoulder may begin to heal itself.

Treatment Options:

You and your doctor should discuss the proper treatment methods for your Frozen Shoulder. If your symptoms do not respond to a combination of physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medicine, your doctor might recommend surgery.

The goal of surgery, much like therapy, is to stretch and release the stiffened shoulder joint capsule. The most common procedures to resolve this condition are manipulation under anesthesia and arthroscopic surgery. During the manipulation procedure, the patient is put to sleep while the doctor forces the shoulder to move by stretching or tearing scar tissue or the capsule. Arthroscopic surgery involves cutting into tight portions of the capsule with a pencil-like instrument. It’s not uncommon for doctors to combine these procedures for maxim results.


  1. Cleveland Clinic Staff. (2013, December 11). What is Frozen Shoulder? Retrieved from
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, March 10). Frozen Shoulder. Retrieved from
  3. Widmir, B., MD. (2011, January).Frozen Shoulder. Retrieved from

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