Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


What is a resistant frozen shoulder? I thought a frozen shoulder is stuck and won't move. Isn't this just calling it a frozen frozen shoulder?


A frozen shoulder does refer to a shoulder joint that is painful and restricted in motion. Often the patient can't lift the arm up past the nose much less reach overhead. There are many causes of frozen shoulder. The most common are diabetes, trauma, or surgery. Sometimes it happens with no known cause.

A resistant frozen shoulder means it doesn't get better with treatment. Often the patient has tried drugs, physical therapy, and exercises at home. The shoulder is still painful and stuck. Range of motion can be mildly to severely limited.

In cases like these, surgery is often the next step. The doctor performs an operation called a shoulder manipulation. Under anesthesia, the patient is relaxed and the arm is moved through its full range of motion. In some cases the doctor may use an arthroscope to look inside the joint and cut loose any fibers or scar tissue holding the joint down.

A frozen shoulder can be resistant to manipulation, too. That's why the patient must follow a rehab program after the operation. Stretching and motion will help keep the motion gained during the manipulation.

Gianluca Castellarin, MD, et al. Manipulation and Arthroscopy Under General Anesthesia and Early Rehabilitative Treatment for Frozen Shoulders. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. August 2004. Vol. 85. No. 8. Pp. 1236-1240.

*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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