Overview on adhesive capsulitis

Fact Checked

Adhesive capsulitis is characterized by loss of motion or stiffness in the shoulder. It generally affects individuals between the ages of 40-60 years and prevalent among women.

The condition develops once the area around the shoulder joint thickens and contracts. Nevertheless, the root of the condition is not yet fully understood. It oftentimes arises when the shoulder has been immobilized for some time. Adhesive capsulitis is prevalent among individuals with diabetes.

Individuals with the following medical ailments face a higher risk:

There are various treatment options for adhesive capsulitis. Even though the condition generally settles on its own, improvement might take up to 2-3 years.
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Heart disease or surgery

What are the indications?

Generally, adhesive capsulitis causes an aching or dull pain in the exterior shoulder region. Oftentimes, this pain arises in the upper arm.

The usual indication of the condition is limited movement of the joint or stiffness.

How is it diagnosed?

A diagnosis is usually made once the doctor conducts a physical exam and checks the symptoms present. In some instances, an X-ray or MRI might be carried out to rule out other possible cause of pain and stiffness in the shoulder.


There are various treatment options for adhesive capsulitis. Even though the condition generally settles on its own, improvement might take up to 2-3 years. Most cases are known to improve with the help of non-surgical measures such as the following:

In some instances, surgery might be done for cases that do not seem to improve after using the non-surgical measures. If surgery is suggested, the objective is to stretch or release the contracted joint capsule in the shoulder.

One approach involves the manipulation of the joint while the individual is under anesthesia. The shoulder is forced to move and causes the joint capsule to stretch or tear.

Another approach is arthroscopic surgery where several small-sized incisions are made around the joint. A camera is introduced to view the instruments that are inserted via the incisions. These instruments slice through the tight regions of the joint capsule to allow the shoulder to move.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on adhesive capsulitis is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage this joint condition, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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