Frozen shoulder is commonly encountered in general orthopaedic practice. It may arise spontaneously without an obvious predisposing cause, or be associated with a variety of local or systemic disorders. Diagnosis is based upon the recognition of the characteristic features of the pain, and selective limitation of passive external rotation. The macroscopic and histological features of the capsular contracture are well-defined, but the underlying pathological processes remain poorly understood. It may cause protracted disability, and imposes a considerable burden on health service resources. Most patients are still managed by physiotherapy in primary care, and only the more refractory cases are referred for specialist intervention. Targeted therapy is not possible and treatment remains predominantly symptomatic. However, over the last ten years, more active interventions that may shorten the clinical course, such as capsular distension arthrography and arthroscopic capsular release, have become more popular.
This review describes the clinical and pathological features of frozen shoulder. We also outline the current treatment options, review the published results and present our own treatment algorithm.