Adhesive Capsulitis

ValleyOrtho’s physicians treat a wide range of common shoulder injuries, including adhesive capsulitis – a loss of motion in the shoulder.


Adhesive capsulitis is a term used to describe a significant loss of motion in all directions in the shoulder joint, which also may be referred to as “frozen shoulder.” This is a condition where the shoulder capsule becomes contracted and thickened.

The loss of motion is apparent when attempting to move the shoulder, as well as when someone else attempts to move the shoulder and the muscles are relaxed. The cause of adhesive capsulitis can be unknown or related to an injury.


  • Dull, achy pain that increases when attempting shoulder motion
  • Pain located in the shoulder area and/or upper arm
  • Restricted motion or stiffness


In order to diagnose this condition, the medical providers at ValleyOrtho will perform a physical exam consisting of shoulder movement and strength testing. In addition, x-rays may be needed to assess the alignment and cartilage spaces of the involved joint or to rule out other potential bone abnormalities. Further imaging, such as an MRI, may be performed if there is concern of injury to the tendons, ligaments and joint if initial treatment does not improve symptoms.

Treatment Option: Conservative

Treatment will focus on pain control and restoration of motion. About 95 percent of patients notice significant improvement over time, even without treatment. Although resolution may take up to two years, with appropriate treatment this time frame can usually be reduced.

Treatment Option: Surgery

If conservative treatment, consisting of at least six to 12 months of consistent rehabilitation, fails, then surgical interventions will be considered.

  • The surgery involves manipulation under anesthesia and shoulder arthroscopy.
  • The manipulation under anesthesia portion of the surgery involves putting the patient to sleep and manipulating the shoulder to move causing the capsule to stretch and tear to a normal length.
  • The second part of the surgery is the shoulder arthroscopy. It involves several small incisions around the shoulder where instruments can be inserted into the shoulder joint to release the tight shoulder capsule.

Following surgery, intense rehabilitation with a physical therapist, focuses on maintaining motion.

With advanced training, a wealth of experience and the latest in equipment and techniques, ValleyOrtho’s physicians work with the entire health care team to help ensure a safe, complete recovery.