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Frozen shoulder

  • Alternative Names

    Adhesive capsulitis


    Pain is treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and steroid injections. Steroid injections plus physical therapy can improve your motion.

    It can take a few weeks to see progress, but it may take as long as 6 - 9 months to have a complete recovery. The physical therapy is intense and needs to be done every day.

    If nothing is done, the condition should get better by itself within 2 years with little loss of motion.

    Any risk factors for frozen shoulder, such as diabetes or thyroid problems should also be treated.

    Surgery is recommended if nonsurgical treatment is not effective. This procedure is done under anesthesia. See: Shoulder arthroscopy

    Your health care provider will release the scar tissue by bringing the shoulder through a full range of motion. Arthroscopic surgery can also be used to cut the tight ligaments and remove the scar tissue from the shoulder.

    Some surgeons may use repeated pain blocks after surgery so you can participate in physical therapy.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Treatment with therapy and NSAIDs will usually return the motion and function of the shoulder within a year. Even if left untreated, the frozen shoulder can get better by itself in 24 months.

    Even if surgery restores motion, you must continue physical therapy for several weeks or months afterward to prevent the frozen shoulder from returning. Treatment may fail if you cannot tolerate physical therapy.

    • Stiffness and pain continue even with therapy
    • The arm can break if the shoulder is moved forcefully during surgery

    Calling your health care provider

    If you have shoulder pain and stiffness and suspect you may have a frozen shoulder, contact your health care provider for proper referral and treatment.