Patients presenting with frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) will often report a gradual unknown onset with a progressive increase in pain, and a slow decrease in active and passive movement in the shoulder. Patients frequently have difficulty with grooming, performing overhead activities, dressing, and particularly fastening items behind their back. Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis is considered to be a self-limiting disease with sources stating symptom resolution as early as 6 months up to 11 years.
The literature reports that Frozen shoulder progresses through three overlapping clinical phases:
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- Acute/freezing/painful phase: gradual onset of shoulder pain at rest with sharp pain at extremes of motion, and pain at night with sleep interruption which may last anywhere from 3-9 months.
- Adhesive/frozen/stiffening phase: Pain starts to subside, progressive loss of glenohumeral motion in capsular pattern. Pain is apparent only at extremes of movement. This phase may occur at around 4 months and last til about 12 months.
- Resolution/thawing phase: Spontaneous, progressive improvement in functional range of motion which can last anywhere from 1 to 3.5 years.