This minimally invasive surgery is used to help relieve pain and loss of mobility in the shoulder caused by adhesive capsulitis, commonly referred to as “frozen shoulder.” The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports that adhesive capsulitis, commonly referred to as frozen shoulder occurs in about 2% of the general population. It most commonly affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, and occurs in women more often than men. The shoulder capsule is strong connective tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint. Its function is to provide stability to the joint and prevent dislocation when making extreme movements of the shoulder. When it becomes inflamed, it becomes extremely painful and difficult to move, thus the name of frozen shoulder.

Although the exact cause of frozen shoulder is still being investigated, there are several risk factors that can commonly lead to frozen shoulder:

  • A traumatic fall or injury
  • Shoulder surgery
  • Prolonged immobilization

Frozen shoulder also occurs more often in diabetics, affecting 10% to 20% of these individuals.

To learn more about capsular release or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ahluwalia, contact us online or call 310.430.1310.

What is Adhesive Capsulitis or Frozen Shoulder?

When the capsule of the shoulder becomes inflamed it stiffens and tightens up. As a result your shoulder becomes immobile or “frozen.” This tends to occur over 3 distinct phases:

  • Phase 1 – Freezing: You begin to notice pain slowly increasing in the shoulder and range of motion decreasing.
  • Phase 2 – Frozen: The shoulder is extremely stiff and tight. There is little to no range of motion.
  • Phase 3 – Thawing: Not everyone will experience this phase, but your frozen shoulder may begin to improve slowly on its own or with treatment.

Surgical Treatment for Frozen Shoulder

The goal of surgery for frozen shoulder is to stretch and release the stiffened joint capsule. The most common methods include manipulation under anesthesia (MUA) and arthroscopic capsular release.

Arthroscopic capsular release and manipulation under anesthesia will substantially speed up the recovery of a frozen shoulder and/or help those patients with pain that is unresponsive to non-surgical treatment options. Arthroscopic capsular release involves making tiny incisions around the shoulder and releasing the capsule surgically. Manipulation involves stretching the capsule under anesthetic.

What Happens During Capsular Release Surgery?

This procedure involves incising and removing the stiff, inflamed shoulder capsule. A special probe is used to cut and remove abnormal capsule tissue through tiny incisions around the shoulder. Constricted capsular ligaments are then cut to free the shoulder joint.

The results of arthroscopic capsular release are successful in over 80% of patients. Capsular release also allows the surgeon to look for any other damage or injuries in the shoulder joint. In capsular release, relief from pain is quicker than in manipulation under anesthesia. It is also safer and more effective than manipulation under anesthesia for people who have developed frozen shoulder after injury, trauma, fractures, or diabetes.

Recovery From Capsular Release

Your recovery will begin immediately following your capsular release surgery. You will be monitored in the recovery room until the effects of the anesthesia wear off. Dr. Ahluwalia will preoperatively discuss post-op recovery care, including medications, movement, and a follow up appointment. Although you may experience pain initially, physiotherapy is essential to help regain normal strength and full range of motion following the surgery.

The initial focus of your rehabilitation should focus on:

  • Keeping the pain controlled
  • Maintaining an adequate level of movement
  • Staying motivated while also keeping your expectations realistic
Shoulder Surgery Recovery FAQ

There are many questions that patients commonly ask following a major surgical procedure like Arthroscopic Capsular Release. Some of the most frequent we hear inclue:

Q: When can I start driving again?

A: Although there is no exact timetable, most patients report being able to drive approximately 2 weeks after their operation. It is recommended that you wait until you feel comfortable without any narcotic pain medication before attempting to drive by yourself.

Q: When will my shoulder move like it used to?

A: The recovery period is different for everyone but most patients report that full range of motion is usually regained within 2-3 months after surgery.

Q: How do I know if I need capsular release surgery?

A: The best way to determine whether or not you need capsular release surgery is to speak to an experienced, board-certified orthopedic surgeon.

Contact Dr. Ahluwalia Today

If you think you may benefit from capsular release surgery, don’t wait any longer to contact Dr. Ahluwalia. Double board-certified in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine, Dr. Sonu Ahluwalia also completed a shoulder surgery fellowship, making him exceptionally qualified to treat your shoulder condition. You can schedule a consultation by calling 310.430.1310.