by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Adhesive Capsulitis)


Frozen shoulder is a problem with the tissue around the shoulder joint. It makes it hard to move the shoulder.


Frozen shoulder is caused by inflammation and scarring of the soft tissues around the shoulder joint. It is not known why this happens in some people. In other people, it may happen after trauma or surgery.

Frozen Shoulder
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Risk Factors

It is more common in people who are 40 to 60 years old. It is also more common in women. Things that may raise your risk are:

  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Problems with the immune system, such as lupus
  • Dupuytren disease
  • Prior surgery


This problem may get worse over time before it gets better on its own. This is called thawing.

Symptoms may be:

  • Shoulder pain, especially when moving
  • Problems moving the shoulder
  • Stiffness


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done, paying close attention to your shoulder.


Treatment is aimed at easing pain and helping the shoulder move again. Options are:

Without Surgery

Initial care may be:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • Medicine injected into the shoulder to help it heal and ease pain and swelling
  • Exercises to make the shoulder stronger and help it to move better

With Surgery

People who do not benefit from initial care may need surgery. During surgery, the shoulder may be forced to moved to increase motion. A small incision may also be made to release the tight tissues.


This problem can happen when a person is not active and moving the shoulder. Healthy muscles may help prevent injury. This may be done through exercise.


American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 


Canadian Orthopaedic Association 

When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation 


Adhesive capsulitis of shoulder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  . Updated June 22, 2018. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Frozen Shoulder. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Available at: Updated March 2018. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Le HV, Lee SJ, Nazarian A, Rodriguez EK. Adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder: review of pathophysiology and current clinical treatments. Shoulder Elbow. 2017 Apr;9(2):75-84.

Struyf F, Meeus M. Current evidence on physical therapy in patients with adhesive capsulitis: What are we missing? Clinical Rheumatology. 2014;33(5):593-600.

11/6/2014 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance : Page MJ, Green S, et al. Electrotherapy modalities for adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;10:CD011324.

1/21/2015 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance : Chen CY, Hu CC, et al. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy improves short-term functional outcomes of shoulder adhesive capsulitis. J Shoulder Elbow Surgery. 2014 Dec;23(12):1843-1851.

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