Physiotherapy for Adhesive Capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis is a medical condition that is characterized by the stiffening of the shoulder joint. It is caused by the shrinkage, thickening and scarring of the capsule that surrounds the shoulder. The shoulder range of motion is limited in all directions, making it very difficult for a sufferer to interact with his or her environment. This musculoskeletal condition has an incidence of 4-5% in the general population.

Factors That Can Lead To Adhesive Capsulitis

There are numerous factors that can lead to Adhesive capsulitis. Sports-related injuries such as rotator cuff injuries, bursitis and tendinitis can cause a frozen shoulder. Numerous disorders such as chronic arthritis of the shoulder, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, pulmonary disease, cardiac disease, stroke, cardiac catheterization, and surgical procedures also put people at a risk of developing a frozen shoulder.

Symptoms of Adhesive Capsulitis

Symptoms and signs of Adhesive capsulitis include stiffness, pain and inflammation in the shoulder area. The pain in the shoulder increases with the motion, making shoulder completely immobilize in a few months. All these symptoms can make sleep very uncomfortable for a sufferer.

The Different Kinds of Adhesive Capsulitis

Rotator cuff injuries range from mild tendon inflammation to partial or full tendon tears. Rotator cuff muscles are responsible for holding humerus onto your scapula. These muscles can get injured due to overuse of shoulder joint and physical trauma. Common rotator cuff injuries include rotator cuff impingement syndrome, calcific tendonitis and bicipital tendonitis.  If left untreated, rotator cuff injuries can lead to a frozen shoulder.

Tendinitis is a common sports-related injury that may cause Adhesive capsulitis. Tendinitis refers to the inflammation of the tendons around the shoulder or elbow. It most commonly occurs as a result of injuries caused by faulty exercise techniques.

Bursitis is inflammation of the tiny fluid-filled sacs (known as bursa) that reduce friction between tissues of the body. These sacs can become inflamed from sports-related injuries such as direct blows to the shoulder when playing sports like rugby, football and wrestling. Other medical disorders such as infections and an underlying rheumatic condition can also cause bursitis.


An expert at a physiotherapy clinic will suspect a frozen shoulder based on the findings from a series of clinical tests. If necessary, the diagnosis will be confirmed with arthrography, a test in which an X-ray contrast dye is injected into the shoulder to diagnose the shrunken shoulder capsule of a frozen shoulder. In some cases, an MRI scan will be performed to see the scarring of tissues in the shoulder area.


The treatment of Adhesive capsulitis usually requires a combination of physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication and hydrodilatation. Physical therapy will help restore your movement, increase your range of motion, and reduce inflammation and pain. A physiotherapy expert will create a treatment plan for you comprising of range-of-motion exercises, strengthening exercises, ice therapy, electric stimulation, ultrasound, and straightening workouts. In hydrodilatation, a volume of saline in the shoulder joint capsule is injected to break down adhesions.

During the rehabilitation period, an individual suffering from a frozen shoulder should avoid lifting heavy weights or sudden, jerking movements as they can reinjure the shoulder tissues.

Call Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359 now for the best physiotherapy advice.