Adhesive Capsulitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Have you been experiencing pain and stiffness in your shoulder? It could be due to a condition called adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder.

In this comprehensive blog, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and treatments of adhesive capsulitis. We’ll start by understanding what exactly adhesive capsulitis is and how it affects the shoulder joint. We’ll also discuss the early signs and progression of symptoms that you should watch out for.

So, whether you’re seeking answers for yourself or someone you know, this blog has got you covered!

Understanding Adhesive Capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is a condition characterised by stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. It also results in the development of adhesions. The exact cause of adhesive capsulitis is not fully understood, but it is thought to develop due to inflammation and thickening of the shoulder joint capsule and surrounding ligaments.

Risk factors for adhesive capsulitis include diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, fracture, and previous shoulder injury.

Causes of Adhesive Capsulitis

The primary cause of adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is unknown. It is believed to occur due to inflammation and thickening of the shoulder joint capsule. Additionally, certain medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, and cardiovascular diseases can also contribute to the development of adhesive capsulitis.

Previous shoulder injuries or trauma and prolonged immobilization of the shoulder joint, such as wearing a sling or cast, are other risk factors. Adhesive capsulitis is more common in individuals over the age of 40, particularly women. Genetic factors may also play a role in its development.

Secondary causes of adhesive capsulitis can include trauma, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, shoulder surgery, or long periods of immobilisation. Other medical conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disorders can also contribute to the development of adhesive capsulitis.

Symptoms of Adhesive Capsulitis

Individuals with adhesive capsulitis may experience pain in the shoulder and biceps, and shoulder stiffness, as well as a limited active and passive range of motion in the shoulder joint. Daily activities such as reaching or lifting may become difficult due to the condition. Pain often worsens at night, which can disrupt sleep.

Symptoms of adhesive capsulitis typically develop gradually, following an injury or a period of immobility. These symptoms can persist for several months to a year or more.

Adhesive capsulitis symptoms typically start with mild discomfort and progress to severe pain and stiffness. The progression of symptoms may include difficulty moving the shoulder, limited range of motion, and pain at rest. As adhesive capsulitis worsens, the shoulder may become frozen, resulting in extreme stiffness and loss of function.

The duration of symptoms can vary, with some individuals experiencing relief within a year while others may have symptoms for several years. Early recognition of symptoms and prompt treatment can help prevent the progression of adhesive capsulitis.

Risk Factors for Adhesive Capsulitis

Age is a significant risk factor for adhesive capsulitis, with individuals between 40 and 60 being most affected. Women have a higher likelihood of developing this condition compared to men. Those with diabetes are also at a greater risk of adhesive capsulitis. Previous shoulder injuries or surgeries can increase the chances of developing this condition.

Prolonged periods of immobility, such as being bedridden or wearing a sling, can also contribute to the risk. Additionally, certain medical conditions like thyroid disorders, cardiovascular disease, and Parkinson’s disease have been associated with an increased risk of adhesive capsulitis.

Common Risk Factors

Age is a significant risk factor for adhesive capsulitis, commonly affecting individuals over the age of 40. Diabetes also increases the risk, possibly due to its effects on the shoulder joint caused by elevated blood sugar levels.

Certain medical conditions like thyroid disorders, fibrosis, and heart disease have been linked to a higher likelihood of developing adhesive capsulitis. Individuals with a history of shoulder trauma or surgery may be more susceptible to this condition. Additionally, gender may play a role, with women being at a greater risk than men.

Diagnosing Adhesive Capsulitis

Diagnosing adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, involves a combination of physical exam and evaluation of the patient’s symptoms. The healthcare provider will assess the range of motion in the shoulder joint, looking for stiffness and limited movement.

Imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and ultrasound may be used to rule out other possible causes of shoulder pain and to visualise the joint capsule and surrounding structures. The goal is to confirm the diagnosis of adhesive capsulitis and exclude other conditions such as rotator cuff tears or shoulder arthritis.

In some cases, a thorough medical history and examination may be sufficient to diagnose adhesive capsulitis without the need for imaging.

Treatment Options for Adhesive Capsulitis

Shoulder motion problems

Physiotherapy plays a vital role in the treatment of adhesive capsulitis. Through exercises and stretches, it can help improve range of motion and reduce pain. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ibuprofen, or corticosteroid injections may be prescribed to alleviate inflammation and pain.

Another option is joint mobilization, where a physical therapist or chiropractor gently moves the shoulder joint to relieve stiffness. Applying heat or cold therapy can also help reduce pain and inflammation. In severe cases, surgery, steroid injections, and shoulder arthroscopy may be recommended to release the tight capsule and restore movement in the joint.

However, do note that steroid injections may have some side effects. Additionally, self-care measures like resting, gentle stretching, and using assistive devices can aid in managing symptoms and promoting healing.

Non-operative Management

Non-operative management options for adhesive capsulitis involve a variety of approaches aimed at improving range of motion and reducing pain without resorting to surgery. These options include physiotherapy, stretching exercises, and the use of pain medication.

Modalities such as heat or cold therapy can also be employed to alleviate symptoms. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help reduce inflammation and pain, while corticosteroid injections can provide temporary relief.

By utilizing these non-operative management strategies, individuals with adhesive capsulitis can achieve their goal of enhancing range of motion and minimizing discomfort without undergoing surgery.

Operative Management

If conservative treatments for adhesive capsulitis have failed, operative management may be considered. This surgical intervention aims to release the contracted capsule and improve range of motion in the shoulder joint. Arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive approach, is often preferred.

Rehabilitation is essential post-surgery for optimal recovery and functional outcomes. It is important to discuss operative management with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action.

Role of Physiotherapy in Managing Adhesive Capsulitis

Physiotherapy in London

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of adhesive capsulitis, commonly known as frozen shoulder. Physiotherapists use various techniques to improve range of motion and decrease pain in the affected shoulder. Therapeutic exercises, stretching, and manual therapy are commonly employed in physiotherapy for adhesive capsulitis.

This personalized approach helps prevent further complications and improves overall shoulder function. Physiotherapy programs are tailored to individual needs, ensuring optimal outcomes in managing adhesive capsulitis. By incorporating these techniques, physiotherapy aims to alleviate stiffness, restore shoulder joint mobility, and enhance the patient’s quality of life.

Therapeutic Techniques

Physiotherapy employs therapeutic exercises to enhance range of motion and alleviate pain associated with adhesive capsulitis. Techniques like joint mobilization and soft tissue mobilization aid in restoring normal shoulder function. Heat and cold therapy are utilized for pain relief and inflammation reduction in the shoulder joint.

Stretching and strengthening shoulder exercises are pivotal components of physiotherapy for adhesive capsulitis. Furthermore, manual therapy techniques such as massage and manipulation help break down scar tissue and improve shoulder joint mobility. These therapeutic techniques administered by physical therapists play a significant role in managing adhesive capsulitis.

Patient Education and Home Care

Patient education is essential in managing adhesive capsulitis, providing patients with a better understanding of the condition and treatment options. Physical therapists prescribe home care exercises to improve range of motion and reduce pain in the shoulder joint. They also offer guidance on proper ergonomics and posture to prevent worsening of symptoms.

Regular home care routines can complement in-clinic therapy sessions, leading to better outcomes in adhesive capsulitis treatment. Physical therapists provide resources and support to help patients effectively manage adhesive capsulitis at home. By combining patient education and home care exercises, individuals can actively participate in their own healing process.

What are the potential complications if Adhesive Capsulitis is not treated?

Untreated Adhesive Capsulitis may lead to loss of shoulder mobility and function, chronic pain and stiffness, muscle weakness and atrophy, and even permanent damage to the shoulder joint.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common causes of adhesive capsulitis?

Common causes of adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, include injury, trauma, prolonged immobilization of the shoulder joint, and certain medical conditions like diabetes or thyroid disorders. The exact cause is unknown, and it can also occur spontaneously without any specific reason.

What are the typical symptoms of adhesive capsulitis?

Typical symptoms of adhesive capsulitis include shoulder pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, and difficulty with activities such as reaching or lifting. It can also cause nighttime pain, interfering with sleep.

Where can I find physiotherapy near me?

To find physiotherapy near you, start by using online search engines or directories. You can also ask your primary care physician or healthcare provider for recommendations. Additionally, seek referrals from friends, family, or colleagues who have had positive experiences. Don’t forget to check online review platforms for ratings and reviews of local physiotherapy clinics. One Body LDN offers physiotherapy in London. to treat conditions like idiopathic adhesive capsulitis, shoulder blade (scapula) problems, and other back and shoulder problems.

Where can I find sports massage near me?

To locate sports massage services in your area, start by searching online directories or using location-based apps. Additionally, seek recommendations from friends, family, or healthcare professionals. Local sports clubs, gyms, and wellness centers may also offer these services. Remember to confirm the qualifications and experience of the massage therapist. For sports massage in London, One Body LDN is the best option.


In conclusion, it is important to understand that adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, can significantly impact your daily activities and quality of life. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for managing this condition effectively.

Non-operative management options such as physiotherapy, pain medications, and gentle stretching exercises can help relieve pain and restore passive and active range of motion. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to release the tight shoulder capsule, restore joint mobility, and improve shoulder motion.

It is also important to note that untreated adhesive capsulitis can lead to long-term complications such as permanent stiffness and limited shoulder function. If you are experiencing symptoms of adhesive capsulitis, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance on the most suitable treatment approach.

If you are searching “private physio near me” / “Sports massage near me” / “Deep tissue massage near me” / “pain treatment near me”, have private health insurance physiotherapy cover and are looking for the best private healthcare in London – One Body LDN is your answer.

We are approved by ALL major private health insurance physiotherapy companies:

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Our approved physiotherapists are ready to take care of you!

Contact us today to learn more!


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