Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

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When your shoulder tightens so much it's difficult to move, it's called a frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis. This condition can be extremely painful in addition to being frustrating. It can be incredibly limiting, professionally and personally. 
With physical therapy, it's possible to increase your range of motion and reduce pain.  

What is Closed Manipulation?

During closed manipulation, the doctor moves the arm at the shoulder joint. This is done to break up adhesions and loosen the stiff joint. The goal of the procedure is to improve range-of-motion by breaking up scar tissue.

How Does Closed Shoulder Manipulation Help Adhesive Capsulitis?

Your doctor may recommend closed manipulation if other methods of relief have failed. This procedure can relieve pain and stiffness for some patients. In others, there is still some pain and swelling in the shoulder joint. If the closed manipulation is not successful, you may need arthroscopic surgery.

Risks Of Closed Manipulation

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a shoulder manipulation, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Pain
  • Nerve injury
  • Damage to soft tissue
  • Instability or stiffness in joint
  • Fracture
  • Reaction to anesthesia used

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Recent or chronic illness
  • Certain medicines — especially those that increase bleeding
  • Smoking or alcohol use
  • Previous shoulder surgery (may cause damage)

Closed Manipulation: What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood and urine tests
  • X-ray — to look for any damage to the shoulder bones
  • MRI scan — to look for damage to the shoulder structures

Leading up to the procedure:

  • Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital. Also arrange for help at home after the procedure.
  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.

Anesthesia for Adhesive Capsulitis treatment

Your doctor may choose either:

  • General anesthesia — You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • Local anesthesia (less common) — The shoulder area will be numbed.

Description of the Procedure

The doctor will twist and move your shoulder upward and outward. The actions will break up scar tissue to improve range of motion.

Immediately After Procedure

If you had general anesthesia, the nurses will monitor you in the recovery room.

How Long Will It Take?

45-60 minutes

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will feel no pain during the procedure. You will have soreness after the procedure. The doctor will give you pain medicine.

Average Hospital Stay

Once you recover from the anesthesia, you will be able to go home.

Post-procedure Care

You will have pain and swelling for 1-2 weeks after the Adhesive Capsulitis surgery. Your doctor may instruct you to:

  • Ice the swollen area for the first 24-48 hours. Do this for periods of 20-30 minutes.
  • Sleep sitting up or in a recliner. Place a pillow behind your elbow.
  • Periodically open and close your hand and move your elbow.
  • Begin intense physical therapy.

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Cough, trouble breathing, or chest pain
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Pain becomes worse or swelling increases
  • Tingling or numbness that will not go away, especially in arms and hands

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.