As its name suggests, a frozen shoulder does not move freely. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, this painful condition usually develops gradually as the shoulder joint capsule thickens or scar tissue forms within it. Many patients experience pain and stiffness that steadily progress until the joint becomes completely frozen.
The risk of developing a frozen shoulder increases significantly with extended inactivity, such as having an arm immobilized in a cast to promote proper healing after a bone fracture or shoulder surgery. Other risk factors include diabetes, certain thyroid disorders, heart disease, tuberculosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
Conservative Treatments for a Frozen Shoulder
In some cases, a frozen shoulder will release on its own. Even so, it’s a good idea to see a shoulder specialist who can suggest a treatment plan to hasten the recovery process. Many patients benefit from conservative therapies, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), heat applications, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections. If the symptoms do not improve with nonsurgical treatment, an arthroscopic frozen shoulder release may be considered.
Arthroscopic Frozen Shoulder Release
When performing this minimally invasive procedure, a surgeon begins by making several small incisions in the shoulder, possibly inflating the joint with saline solution for enhanced visibility, then inserting a miniature camera and specialized surgical tools. While referring to high-definition images of the joint interior on an external screen in real time, the surgeon may use a radiofrequency probe to precisely remove scar tissue or free up overtight ligaments to allow the shoulder to move more freely.
Usually, physical therapy begins almost immediately after an arthroscopic frozen shoulder release to help prevent the joint from refreezing and restore its full range of motion. Most patients are able to resume driving as soon as they feel comfortable enough to do so, which often occurs within about a week.
If you have questions about arthroscopic frozen shoulder release, contact the office of Christopher C. Schmidt, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who practices in Pittsburgh, PA. After evaluating your condition, Dr. Schmidt can suggest appropriate treatment techniques to help you achieve the highest level of function in the shortest amount of time.
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