Frozen shoulder

Synonyms: Adhesive capsulitis

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Orthopedics, Physical medicine & rehab

Clinical Definition

Frozen shoulder is a condition where the connective tissue around the glenohumeral joint becomes inflamed, thick and stiff. Adhesion formation also results in a thickening of the tissue. A decrease in synovial fluid is also often present in individuals with frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder causes a progressive loss of range of motion and restricted movement.  

In Our Own Words

Normally your shoulder joint moves freely in its socket. Frozen shoulder is a condition where shoulder movement becomes limited over time due to inflammation. The formation of thick bands of tissue, called adhesions, also occurs.


A capsule of connective tissue surrounds the tendons, ligaments and bones of the shoulder. When the connective tissue becomes inflamed, scar tissue and adhesions can form. The combination of inflammation and scar tissue causes pain and limits shoulder movement.


Scientists don’t completely understand what causes a frozen shoulder, but injury and inflammation can both contribute; rotator cuff tendinitis and bursitis can precede a frozen joint. Long-term outcomes typically end well with interventions like physical therapy or surgery. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Immobilization
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis
  • Bursitis
Side Effects
  • Pain in the shoulder
  • Limited shoulder range of motion
Share this article
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "Frozen Shoulder." Accessed September 2013.
  • John Hopkins Medicine. "What is frozen Shoulder?" Accessed September 2013.
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