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Frozen Shoulder

Aerial Yoga with Teacher

adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen Shoulder)

Adhesive capsulitis, commonly known as frozen shoulder, is a condition characterized by pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. Athletes who engage in repetitive overhead activities or experience shoulder trauma are particularly prone to developing this condition. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and rehabilitation strategies can help athletes effectively manage and recover from frozen shoulder.



Symptoms of adhesive capsulitis often progress through three distinct stages. The first stage, the “freezing” stage, involves increasing pain and stiffness in the shoulder, making everyday movements challenging. This is followed by the “frozen” stage, where the pain may stabilize, but stiffness and limited range of motion persist. Finally, the “thawing” stage occurs, during which gradual improvement in shoulder mobility and a reduction in pain can be experienced.



The shoulder joint, known as the glenohumeral joint, is a complex ball-and-socket joint where the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) articulates with the glenoid fossa of the scapula (shoulder blade). The joint is surrounded by a capsule, a sturdy connective tissue structure that provides stability while allowing for a wide range of motion.


In adhesive capsulitis, the capsule becomes inflamed and thickened, resulting in the characteristic stiffness and limited range of motion. The exact reasons behind this inflammation and thickening are not fully understood. However, it is believed that a combination of factors, including immune system dysfunction, metabolic changes, and the formation of adhesions within the joint, contribute to the development of frozen shoulder.


Adhesions are fibrous bands that can form between the joint surfaces, restricting normal movement. These adhesions may arise due to increased collagen production and scarring within the joint capsule, leading to a loss of flexibility and decreased synovial fluid production. As a result, the joint becomes “stuck” or “frozen,” limiting the ability to move the shoulder comfortably.


The implications of this altered anatomy are significant for athletes. The limited range of motion and stiffness can severely impact athletic performance, making it difficult to execute essential movements involved in sports activities. Athletes who rely on overhead motions, such as throwing a baseball or serving in tennis, may experience a notable decline in their ability to generate power and accuracy. Swimmers may struggle with their stroke mechanics, while weightlifters may find it challenging to perform exercises requiring full shoulder mobility.


Furthermore, the pain associated with adhesive capsulitis can significantly hinder an athlete's performance and motivation. The constant discomfort and inflammation may lead to muscle imbalances, altered movement patterns, and compensatory strategies that can further affect athletic performance and increase the risk of secondary injuries.


Addressing the underlying anatomical changes is crucial in the management of frozen shoulder. Physical therapy interventions aim to restore the normal mobility of the shoulder joint, decrease inflammation, and promote healing. By focusing on stretching, range of motion exercises, and strengthening exercises, athletes can gradually regain their full shoulder function, reduce pain, and improve overall performance.


The causes of frozen shoulder are not entirely clear, but certain factors contribute to its development. Inflammation and thickening of the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint, along with the formation of adhesions, can lead to the characteristic stiffness and restricted movement. Athletes who engage in repetitive motions, such as throwing, swimming, or weightlifting, may experience wear and tear on the shoulder joint, increasing the risk of adhesive capsulitis. Additionally, shoulder trauma or previous shoulder surgeries can predispose athletes to this condition.


Rehabilitation strategies are essential in the management of frozen shoulder, aiding in pain relief and restoration of shoulder function. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in this process. Therapists utilize various techniques, such as stretching exercises, range of motion exercises, and strengthening exercises, to improve shoulder mobility, reduce stiffness, and regain strength. They may also incorporate manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilization or soft tissue massage, to address specific limitations in the shoulder joint.


In addition to in-clinic therapy sessions, therapists will provide athletes with home exercise programs to supplement their rehabilitation. These programs typically consist of exercises and stretches tailored to the individual's specific condition and goals. Compliance with these home exercises is crucial for optimizing the recovery process.

If you're an athlete experiencing the symptoms of frozen shoulder, don't let it hinder your performance. Contact our clinic today to schedule an appointment and start your journey toward a pain-free and mobile shoulder.

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