1. Why did I develop a frozen shoulder?


We do not have a good explanation for the development of frozen shoulder in most patients.
The majority of cases seem to be more prevalent in women, diabetics, and those with hypothyroidism. Others who develop frozen shoulder are those who have sustained an injury and developed stiffness as a result. The trauma can be quite mild or severe, and the body’s response to the event is probably more important than the event itself.

2. How can frozen shoulder be treated?


The resolution of a frozen shoulder can be very slow, but physical therapy can speed up the healing process. Frozen shoulder begins with pain followed by the rapid development of stiffness. Usually when the pain starts to subside physical therapy can be effective in stretching the capsule back out. Occasionally in unmanageable cases surgery is indicated. This is true only in cases in which the pain has subsided and the residual capsular contracture has not responded to six months or more of physical therapy. Early surgery in the face of frozen shoulder will lead to more problems with stiffness after surgery.

I have been diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear in addition to frozen shoulder; why won’t the surgeon repair the rotator cuff now?


Surgery in the face of a frozen shoulder is not recommended because of the immobilization required after a rotator cuff repair. The shoulder becomes more inflamed after the surgery and the immobilization required to heal the cuff repair leads to increased stiffness. The only way to deal with this combination of problems is to allow physical therapy to stretch out the frozen shoulder. Once that has been accomplished, the rotator cuff repair can be performed. The shoulder will probably be stiffer than the average cuff repair after the immobilization period ends, but research has shown that physical therapy can help regain lost motion.


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