Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ

Question:

What's the difference between adhesive capsulitis and a frozen shoulder? I've been told by two different doctors that's what's wrong with my arm.

Answer:

The terms adhesive capsulitis and frozen shoulder are interchangeable. In other words, either term can be used to describe the same problem. The labels suggest that shoulder motion is decreased and the joint is stuck or frozen and can't move past that point.

Patients with a frozen shoulder complain of shoulder pain, stiffness, and loss of motion. The symptoms keep them from performing their daily activities without difficulty.

In many cases, the cause of the problem isn't known. Degenerative changes from aging appear to have some part in the process. Female sex may be another risk factor as far more women have a frozen shoulder compared to men.

The term frozen shoulder may not be completely correct. New research shows that the unexplained loss of shoulder motion may be caused (in part) by changes in the way the scapula (shoulder blade) moves. If the scapula doesn't slide and glide along the trunk with the right amount of tilt and rotation, shoulder motion can get stuck. Peter J. Rundquist, PT, PhD. Alterations in Scapular Kinematics in Subjects with Idiopathic Loss of Shoulder Range of Motion. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. January 2007. Vol. 37. No. 1. Pp. 19-25.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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