Adhesive capsulitis is commonly known as a frozen shoulder for obvious reasons. A frozen shoulder joint is characterized by loss of joint movement. A person suffering from adhesive capsulitis has very limited range of motion. The shoulder joint is nearly frozen in place. It would cause great pain if the doctor tried to move the joint past its ability to move.
What causes adhesive capsulitis?
The shoulder joint is encased in a soft tissue capsule. When the capsule gets inflamed, the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint may begin to thicken and shrink around the joint. Sometimes a frozen shoulder results from an injury, and in some cases the exact cause of the condition isn’t known. Below are some possible causes of adhesive capsulitis.
Injury – Trauma to the shoulder joint due to injury may cause an individual to “favor” the shoulder. Immobility of the shoulder joint for an extended period of time could result in contraction of the capsule that surrounds the joint. Contraction of the soft tissue of the capsule will likely cause the joint to remain immobile even after the injury heals.
Surgery – An individual that has had surgery on the shoulder, the joint may have the joint immobilized for a short time. Following through with physical therapy exercises as ordered by the surgeon is important to regain mobility of the shoulder.
Bursitis – Inflammation of the shoulder bursa can cause enough pain to restrict range of motion and cause a frozen shoulder.
Who is at risk for adhesive capsulitis?
Gender and age – Women are approximately twice as likely to develop adhesive capsulitis as men. The most common age for men and women to develop a frozen shoulder is between the ages of 40 and 60.
Repetitive motion/strain – Individuals who have jobs that require repetitive motion of the shoulder joint, or those whose job requires frequent lifting could sustain inflammation to the joint and develop a frozen shoulder. The result of repetitive motion or repetitive strain can cause inflammation to the joint and the surrounding tissues. The pain of repetitive strain injury will likely result in limited range of motion; decreased motion could result in a frozen shoulder from shrinking of the capsule.
Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 and 2 – People with diabetes mellitus could be at risk for adhesive capsulitis. The connection between diabetes and adhesive capsulitis isn’t quite known, but it is believed that the diabetics with elevated glucose levels are at significant risk because glucose molecules attach themselves to collagen. Collagen is a protein that is a building block of cartilage and tendon tissue in the shoulder. It is believed that the more glucose molecules that attach to collagen, the stiffer the tissue gets, which can result in a frozen shoulder.
Hyperthyroidism – It’s not totally understood, but it is believed that the hyperactivity of the thyroid hormones may cause soft tissue swelling in the area of the bursa and surrounding areas. Bursitis can cause enough pain to render the shoulder immobile, which may cause an end result of a frozen shoulder.
There’s not a whole lot known as to why so many individuals suffer from adhesive capsulitis; however, we do know that a little bit of physics knowledge can be applied to explain a frozen shoulder. In physics class we all learned Newton’s Law of Motion: an object in motion tends to stay in motion, while an object at rest tends to stay at rest. Therefore, when a shoulder joint stays at rest for too long, it can lose its ability to move.