Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms and Causes

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, known clinically as Adhesive Capsulitis is a condition in the shoulder joint that can cause symptoms of pain, discomfort, stiffness and limited shoulder movement. In many cases, a “stiff shoulder” can result in a complete loss of function and motion of the shoulder joint. Orthopedic shoulder specialist, James Mazzara, MD, serving the Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities is highly trained and has extensive experience in treating frozen shoulder symptoms.

The ligaments, tendons and bones that make up the shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of soft tissue. Frozen shoulder develops when this connective tissue thickens and tightens, creating scar tissue-called adhesions- around the joint. This scar tissue creates a loss of motion, restricting arm movement.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder?

Signs of frozen shoulder typically begin slowly, gradually worsen over time and then resolve – often within a few years.

Symptoms of Adhesive Capsulitis include:

  • Inability to move the arm or rotate the shoulder. Patients often cannot place their hand behind their back and touch their shoulder blade
  • Reduced range of motion.
  • Pain – a dull, achy sensation is often reported

What Causes a Frozen Shoulder?

The reason some patients are more prone to a frozen shoulder are not completely understood. There are a few factors that could put a patient at risk for this condition:

  • Diabetes: Frozen shoulder occurs more often in people with diabetes, although the reason is unknown. Further patients with diabetes who experience frozen shoulder often have a greater degree of stiffness that continues for a longer time.
  • Immobility: Patients who have had a prior joint injury and cannot move their shoulder for an extended period of time are more prone to shoulder stiffness and frozen shoulder symptoms.
  • Other risk factors: Additional medical factors associated with frozen shoulder include thyroid disorders, cardiac disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

How is Frozen Shoulder Diagnosed?

After reviewing a patient’s medical history, Dr. Mazzara will complete a physical exam testing range of motion, areas of pain and when limited mobility occur. Dr. Mazzara can usually confirm the diagnosis of frozen shoulder based on history, examination and an x-ray, which is always normal. If another condition is suspected such as shoulder arthritis or a rotator cuff tear, additional testing, such as an MRI, may be performed.

Are you experiencing frozen shoulder symptoms?

There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Mazzara:

You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Mazzara.

You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Mazzara.

Request Case Review or Office Consultation

What are Frozen Shoulder Treatment Options?

Dr. Mazzara usually recommends nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, home exercises and physical therapy.  A corticosteroid injection into the bursa is usually performed on the first office evaluation.  Two weeks later, an ultrasound guided injection into the inflamed joint is usually performed.

A frozen shoulder usually gets better over time but can often take up to three years. A few simple treatments to restore motion and control pain may be all that is needed.

Does Adhesive Capsulitis Require Surgery?

If non-surgical treatments are not diminishing frozen shoulder symptoms over time, Dr. Mazzara may recommend a release of the tight shoulder through an arthroscopic procedure called a “lysis of adhesions” combined with a manipulation of the shoulder.  Performing the arthroscopic release before a manipulation can reduce the risk of injury to the bones or tendons when compared to manipulation alone. This procedure is followed immediately by a return to physical therapy.

In other cases, patients in the Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities may undergo arthroscopic surgery. This minimally invasive surgery is used to release tight areas and remove scar tissue from the joint to restore mobility. Following surgery, aggressive physical therapy and home-stretches are required to maintain motion.

Dr. James Mazzara is an orthopedic shoulder specialist serving the Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford Connecticut communities. If you have symptoms of a frozen shoulder or would like a consultation, please contact his office.

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