What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Inflamed joint capsule of shoulder - illustration of shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition that causes pain in your shoulder. This pain usually prevents you from moving your arm, and the related lack of movement can lead to stiffness and even a loss of mobility. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is usually caused by inflammation. The capsule of the shoulder joint has ligaments that hold the shoulder bones to each other. When the capsule becomes inflamed, the shoulder bones are unable to move freely in the joint.

Most of the time, there is no cause for frozen shoulder, though risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Changes in your hormones, such as during menopause
  • Shoulder injury
  • Shoulder surgery
  • Open heart surgery
  • Cervical disk disease of the neck

Diagnosis of Frozen Shoulder

Your health care provider will start by asking you about your symptoms and examining your shoulder. A diagnosis is often made when you’re unable to rotate your shoulder. You may also have x-rays of the shoulder to make sure there’s no other problem, such as arthritis.

Treatment at Penn

Early treatment may help prevent stiffness, and usually includes physical therapy and NSAIDs to restore motion and function of the shoulder. If medication and pain relievers are ineffective, however, your health care team may recommend surgery.

Penn Programs & Services for Frozen Shoulder

Provider holding patient's shoulder while patient holds neck
Shoulder Pain

Penn orthopaedic specialists offer comprehensive surgical and nonsurgical options to treat every type of shoulder condition.

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