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Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a common condition usually affecting people over 40, and women more often than men. Statistics suggest that 5 percent to 20 percent of the population will experience an episode of frozen shoulder. Individuals with a history of diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson's disease or heart disease are at particular risk. Patients with frozen shoulder experience a progressive increase in pain and loss in range of motion.

To understand the condition, it helps to understand the shoulder's structure. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, yet the shoulder's anatomy allows for an amazing amount of flexibility. The head of the humerus (upper arm bone) is a ball that sits in the glenoid fossa (shallow socket) of the shoulder blade. (Picture a golf ball on a tee.) Because the socket is so shallow, the shoulder relies on the surrounding soft tissues for stability. The labrum (cartilage lining the socket) and capsule (containing joint fluid and several ligaments) provide a majority of the shoulder's stability. The muscles of the rotator cuff and shoulder blade also help.

Our Approach to Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder typically heals on its own, although it's important to understand that full recovery can take a long time. A well-designed physical therapy program speeds the process, and some patients benefit from cortisone injections into the shoulder joint. Only a small percentage of patients need surgery.

Our team includes highly trained physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons with expertise in shoulder care. These specialists work together to relieve pain and restore mobility, so that patients can return to their normal lives and favorite activities.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-orthopedics

    One of the nation's best for orthopedic care

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.