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Dr. Mark J. Kirk &
Dr. James McNally
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Adhesive Capsulitis


People commonly refer to adhesive capsulitis as "frozen shoulder," an apt name given the symptoms. Those affected find they have difficulty moving their shoulder or performing everyday tasks that involve lifting their arms. In fact, as the condition progresses, severe pain in the shoulder can make some arm movements impossible.

Adhesive capsulitis involves inflammation of a protective capsule that covers the shoulder joint. When this capsule is working properly, it limits excessive movement in the shoulder joint and keeps the surrounding area healthy by providing lubrication and nourishment. When the capsule becomes injured or overused, however, the body reacts with inflammation and adhesions (scar tissue), the latter being its effort to replace damaged tissue.

Adhesions cause the capsule to become stiff and inflexible, making it painful for patients to move their arm above their head, to the side of their body or behind their back. Patients also commonly report that the pain worsens with time and persists when they're resting, particularly when they sleep on the affected shoulder.

What makes the condition worse is that some patients compensate for their frozen shoulder by shrugging their upper body to lift their arm. This causes other muscles to do the work the shoulder normally does, which can cause strains and secondary pain in the neck and shoulder.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent adhesive capsulitis, as nobody really knows what causes it. While the disorder sometimes develops after an injury, it more commonly begins without warning. The only established risk factor is aging, as people with the condition are usually 40 or older.

The good news is that while chiropractors aren't sure what causes adhesive capsulitis, they know how to care for it. Chiropractic care is effective, and your chiropractor can use several techniques that will help to reduce pain and increase your shoulder's range of motion.