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Physical therapy for adhesive capsulitis

What is adhesive capsulitis?

Also known as “frozen shoulder,” adhesive capsulitis is characterized by a lack of mobility in the shoulder joint.

The condition tends to develop gradually — first with a ‘freezing’ stage, in which any shoulder motion causes pain. Then comes the ‘frozen’ stage, in which pain decreases while the shoulder stiffens and range of motion decreases. Lastly, the ‘thawing’ stage occurs, and range of motion begins to improve. Adhesive capsulitis typically, though not always, resolves on its own.

Frozen shoulder occurs when the capsule of connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint thickens and tightens, restricting range of motion. The condition is more likely to occur in patients with diabetes or patients who have recently had to immobilize their shoulder for a period following an injury.

Source: MayoClinic

Adhesive capsulitis symptoms

Adhesive capsulitis occurs when the shoulder capsule thickens, preventing full range of motion. Thick bands of tissue called “adhesions” develop around the capsule, and in many cases, patients experience a loss of synovial fluid in the joint. The primary symptoms of frozen shoulder include severe pain and loss of mobility in the shoulder.

Frozen shoulder develops in three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. The freezing stage can last anywhere from six weeks to nine months, and is characterized by gradually increasing pain and decreasing range of motion. When the shoulder is “frozen” (a period that typically lasts from four to six months), patients tend to experience more stiffness than pain, and may have trouble performing daily activities. Finally, the thawing stage sees a gradual return to normalcy over the course of six months to two years.

The most common symptoms of adhesive capsulitis include:

  • Pain in the shoulder
  • Stiffness in the shoulder
  • Inability to move the shoulder, even with assistance

Source: OrthoInfo

What causes adhesive capsulitis?

Frozen shoulder can occur after the shoulder has been immobilized following an injury (a dislocated shoulder, for example). Diabetes also represents a major risk factor, and cases of frozen shoulder tend to be more severe in diabetic patients.

Medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism are also associated with higher rates of adhesive capsulitis, although the exact connection is unclear.

The most common symptoms of adhesive capsulitis include:

  • Diabetes
  • Immobilization of the shoulder after injury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Heart disease

Source: OrthoInfo

Physical therapy for adhesive capsulitis

Patients suffering from adhesive capsulitis often benefit from the aid of a physical therapist. Treatments will address both pain and range of motion. Physical therapists will likely employ a variety of therapeutic modalities to increase comfort and improve range of motion.

A treatment program will usually begin with manual therapy, passive shoulder range of motion exercises, and some basic stretches before more active exercises and resistance training are introduced. The ultimate goal of physical therapy for frozen shoulder is to help the patient comfortably return to the normal activities and demands of their daily lives.

Source: VeryWellHealth

Luna’s physical therapists treat
adhesive capsulitis

Luna employs physical therapists in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles that specialize in treating patients suffering from adhesive capsulitis. With a focus on helping patients return to daily activities, our PTs design treatment plans tailored to each patient’s particular needs.

The best part? Luna’s physical therapists will treat you in the comfort of your own home. Patients suffering from adhesive capsulitis need only open the door — our physical therapists come to you. It’s physical therapy, delivered.

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