If you are looking for frozen shoulder treatment in Charleston, Goose Creek, or Mount Pleasant, the information below will help you make a better decision, as well as help you avoid unnecessary and expensive healthcare treatment !!!!

“My arm just keeps getting stiffer”.  “I can’t raise my arm over my head”  We hear patients describe these symptoms on a daily basis.  Often they have been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder or in medical jargon, Adhesive Capsulitis

What is Adhesive Capsulitis or Frozen Shoulder?

The shoulder capsule itself surrounds the glenohumeral joint, or shoulder joint, and is comprised of a type of cartilage called articular cartilage.  A frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by inflammation and irritation of the capsule which often results in pain and a loss in active and passive motion at the shoulder.  Typically, adhesive capsulitis will not occur immediately following a traumatic event or injury.  Instead, it often occurs in three separate phases.

The Phases:

The first phase is known as the “freezing phase,” and usually involves significant pain which is often worse at night.  In this phase, the individual may have zero or only minor ROM (range of motion) loss.  Consequently, many people do not seek out treatment or help in this phase.  This is unfortunate circumstance because seeking treatment during the early freezing phase may help to minimize ROM loss down the road and lead to faster recovery.  The “freezing phase” can often last multiple months.

The second phase is known as the “frozen phase.”  At this point, pain may persist, but both active and passive ROM begins to decrease quickly.  This loss of ROM commonly occurs in a what is known as acapsular pattern with certain motions being more restricted than others.  Each joint in the body has a unique capsular pattern.  In the glenohumeral joint (the ball and socket at the shoulder), the capsular pattern is external rotation/reaching back for a seatbelt (typically limited the most), abduction/reaching out to the side, followed by limitation with internal rotation/hand behind back movements.  The frozen phase is commonly when adhesive capsulitis is diagnosed due to the significant loss of ROM during this period.  Pain may still be present, but generally lessens, especially toward the end of this stage.

The final stage is known as the “thawing stage,” and is characterized by decreased pain and improvements in motion.  However, depending on the severity of limitations as well as when treatment was sought out after the initial onset of symptoms, research has found that in some people, deficits from adhesive capsulitis may last from 6+months up to multiple years.  This illustrates the importance of seeking treatment when these symptoms first appear.


Causes of Frozen Shoulder?

The overall prevalence of adhesive capsulitis has been reported to be between 2% and 5% of the population with females, as well as individuals over 40-50 years of age being at the highest risk.  In addition, research has shown that people with diabetes are at increased risk for adhesive capsulitis with the incidence being 20% of the diabetic population. The cause of adhesive capsulitis is often unknown or without a specific cause.  In other cases, the cause can be an injury or trauma that leads to disuse of the arm and decreased range of motion associated with this condition.  This can include trauma following surgery, as well as general shoulder strains/sprains to the muscles of the shoulder.


Treatment for Adhesive Capsulitis:


Treatment for adhesive capsulitis can be surgical or conservative depending on the severity of pain and limitations as well as duration of these limitations.  Surgical treatment may include manipulation under anesthesia in which the M.D. will move the patient’s arm passively into end ranges of motion.  Another surgical option is a capsular release.  Typically these treatments are utilized after conservative treatment has failed.  Conservative management can include corticosteroid injections into the shoulder to help manage and reduce pain/inflammation as well as physical therapy to strengthen and restore mobility to the involved shoulder.  Excellent  outcomes for adhesive capsulitis are often achieved through PHYSICAL THERAPY which is why physical therapy is considered the first and best coarse of treatment.

What To Do First- See One Of Our Adhesive Capsulitis Specialists In Charleston, Goose Creek, and Mount Pleasant

Physical therapy for adhesive capsulitis follows a general progression in which pain and mobility deficits are typically addressed first.  Manual therapy techniques including joint mobilizations, soft tissue mobilization to address tissue restrictions, as well as passive and active stretching are essential during this time in order to help return normal functional motion in the shoulder.  Joint mobilizations work to stretch the shoulder capsule as well as to help mobilize soft tissue restrictions around the shoulder.  While restoring motion in the shoulder, it is also particularly important to address any weakness in the shoulder girdle.  Adequate shoulder strength can help improve shoulder stability, maintain newly gained ranges of motion and help prevent future injury.

How Will Your Frozen Shoulder Specialist in Charleston, Goose Creek, and Mount Pleasant Treat This Condition?

In general, therapy for adhesive capsulitis lasts anywhere from six weeks to six months depending on the severity of the patient’s limitation.  Treatment will always vary as per the individual but will often include:

  • A Thorough Initial Evaluation
  • Patient Education
  • Stretching
  • Hands On Soft Tissue and Joint Mobilizations
  • Patient Specific Exercises


If you have any questions or feel like you may be experiencing shoulder pain or mobility loss, please feel free to contact us at Joints In Motion Physical Therapy and Wellness.  Our phone number is 843-793-4466.  Thank you for your time.