Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

What Is Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)?

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) occurs when the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint contracts and thickens, making shoulder movement difficult. The reason for this problem is not completely understood but seems to occur more often in people that have experienced long periods of shoulder immobilization (such as after casting or splinting) as well as in people with diabetes.


  • Shoulder stiffness (noticeably restricted movement)
  • Difficulty with activities such as brushing hair and putting on shirts/bras
  • Pain at night in the affected shoulder
  • Dull, achy pain in the shoulder


There are nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available for frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis). Both treatment types are performed by our shoulder specialists at Orthopaedic Specialists. 

Nonsurgical Treatments

Many cases of frozen shoulder may be treated with nighttime splints, anti-inflammatories, therapy, and/or steroid injections. While nonsurgical treatment can relieve many cases of the condition, surgery may be necessary for some patients.

Surgical Treatment

Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive method of relieving frozen shoulder. During surgery, one of our orthopaedic surgeons will create small incisions in the shoulder, through which an arthroscope (small video camera) is inserted to allow your surgeon to view the shoulder joint on a video monitor. A small knife is used to divide the tight tissue restricting the movement of the joint capsule. This method frequently results in a shorter recovery time compared to open surgery. For the best postsurgical results, physical therapy is usually required.