Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis or shoulder contracture, is a condition characterized by pain and restricted range of movement in your shoulder. It may happen after prolonged immobilization with injury recovery (such as a broken arm), from a disease such as diabetes, or a stroke. The soft tissues around the shoulder joint swell, thicken and contract. Scar tissue forms and shoulder movements become difficult and painful.
The pain from this condition can cause sufferers to use their shoulder less. Lack of use causes the protective capsule around the shoulder joint, known as the synovial membrane, to thicken further and become even more challenging to move. It thus becomes “frozen” in position.
In most cases, a frozen shoulder can be unfrozen, although full recovery may take months and a lot of self-help to work it back to normal function.
Non-surgical treatment to relieve pain and restore your shoulder’s normal range of motion is the best approach. This usually is a mix of physical therapy and medication.
Your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to quiet inflammation and ease pain. In some cases, an injection of a corticosteroid into the shoulder joint or nearby soft tissues may be needed.
Physical therapy, however, will be the cornerstone for recovery. This will involve significant stretching to increase your range of motion. A physical therapist will show you have far to push yourself and teach you the appropriate exercises. Once you’ve learned your limitations, your success will depend on how diligently you do the stretching routine on your own at home.