What are Your Recommendations for Treating a Frozen Shoulder?

Dear Dr. Millett,

I fell on my right arm, palm first, three years ago. My right shoulder froze a week later. Physical therapy improved it, but not to normal. My shoulder still hurts and I cannot pull my seatbelt and I have trouble raising items above shoulder height with my right arm alone. This condition in my right arm has worsened over the past six months. I believe I also have an underlying non-specific inflammatory disease, likely Rheumatoid Arthritis of some sort. Can you help?

Thank you,
Ms. Stiff

Dear Ms.Stiff,

If you are experiencing loss of function in your shoulder and very limited movement, it sounds as if you may have developed a frozen shoulder. The technical term for a frozen shoulder is adhesive capsulitis. This condition is also sometimes referred to as a “stiff shoulder.” In this injury, the soft tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint and lining becomes thickened and tightened because of excess scarring. During adhesive capsulitis, the freezing stage is what occurs first, as in your situation. I specialize in the treatment of shoulder disorders such as frozen shoulder. A focus of our clinic is minimally invasive, arthroscopic, joint preserving surgery, and you indeed may be a candidate. It’s important to have this looked at further through an MRI because if adhesive capsulitis is not corrected, it might lead to additional problems such as a tear or a rotator cuff issue.


Dr. Millett