Treatment for Adhesive Capsulitis

Adhesive Capsulitis, which is another term for frozen shoulder, can cause serious discomfort and pain. It normally results in movement limitations, and will typically reduce your ability to carry out certain tasks effectively. While the condition can worsen overtime, the good news is that it can be effectively treated, through certain physiotherapy and osteopathic techniques.

What is adhesive capsulitis?

Frozen shoulder is a medical condition, characterised by the stiffening of the shoulder joint. The ‘capsule’, which is the lining of the shoulder joint, normally enables a lot of shoulder movement, due to its flexible structure. But with adhesive capsulitis present, the shoulder joint capsule becomes inflamed and contracted.

What are the causes of Frozen Shoulder?

Adhesive Capsulitis affects 2-3% of the UK population, and occurs more in women than men. It does not have any specific cause and can often start out of the blue. However, the condition has been linked with other medical issues like diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. It can also be caused by certain shoulder injuries, like fracture of the shoulder blade and rotator cuff tears.

What are risk factors for developing frozen shoulder?

People between the ages of 40 and 60 are known to be at higher risks of developing the condition. It is also more common in women than men. Other risk factors include:

  • Conditions that temporarily restrict movement like surgery, stroke, or rotator cuff injury.
  • Certain diseases and disorders like cardiovascular diseases, thyroid conditions, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes mellitus.

What are the signs and symptoms of Adhesive Capsulitis?

There are three main phases, involved in the development and resolution of Frozen Shoulder. Each stage can linger for a number of months, depending on the severity of the condition, and individual differences.

Level 1 (Freezing): this phase comes with a mild ache that gradually worsens. There’s usually sharp pain that accompanies sudden movements. This may cause you to limit movement, in the arm to escape the pain.

Level 2 (Frozen): this is where mobility will be reduced, as the shoulder becomes stiffer and less painful.

Level 3 (thawing): at this stage, gradual restoration of motion may begin to develop. However, most cases require treatment for speedy recovery.

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

Your doctor will carry out a physical examination where you’ll be asked to move in certain directions, in order to assess your ‘active range of motion’ and check for pain. Your ‘passive range of motion’ will be evaluated, as your doctor will ask you to relax your muscles, while they try to move your arm around. Frozen shoulder is known to affect both passive and active range of motions. You might be injected with an anaesthetic in some cases, to determine active and passive range of motions.

Signs and symptoms alone can be used to diagnose a frozen shoulder, but an X-ray is routinely ordered, to ensure the symptoms are not caused by other medical problems, such as arthritis. Other tests like an ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), may also be obtained to look for other issues like a rotator cuff tear.

What are the treatment options for Frozen Shoulder?

If you’ve been diagnosed with adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder, the good news is that you can get treated effectively and relieved of so much pain. There are different treatment options, but the best long-term option is physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Some of the known treatment options include:


You may be prescribed over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin, until the initial phase passes. Stronger anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving meds, can also be prescribed in some cases.

Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation

This is the most recommend treatment option. The approach will depend on your personal situation. Our specialists will provide advice and guidance on the kind of movements to avoid, while coaching you on certain shoulder exercises that should be carried out regularly. As your treatment progresses, other psychotherapy techniques like thermotherapy (cold and warm temperature packs), stronger stretches, as well as massage (manual therapy) may be integrated into your rehabilitation programme.


If, after a year or more, you continue to experience stiffness in your shoulder, then surgery will be recommended. The procedures you may undergo include:

Manipulation under anaesthesia: your doctors will put you to sleep and force movement of your shoulder.

Shoulder arthroscopy: this procedure involves surgically removing adhesions and scar tissues from the joint capsule. Tabular instruments will also be inserted around your joint, through small, precise incisions.

Ensure to contact us today, so that you can get back to your normal level of activities in no time.

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