My mom has pain in her shoulder and limited range of motion, but only for reaching overhead. She did not have any known injury. The doctor has told her she has adhesive capsulitis, does she need an MRI to confirm this diagnosis?


Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder is often associated loss of range of motion in the shoulder with no known cause. In general an MRI is not needed to confirm this diagnosis, however there has been some recent indications that in some cases of frozen shoulder the rotator cuff may be involved. In this case an MRI would be appropriate to confirm or deny the presence of injury to the rotator cuff. In a recent study by Ueda et al research was conducted to determine the prevalence of rotator cuff injuries in patients with stiff shoulders. This study found that patients who had global loss of range of motion, in all directions, for example less than 100 degrees of forward flexion, external rotation of 10 degrees or less and internal rotation reach to the 5th lumbar level or less it is not likely that there is a rotator cuff injury. However, if you have loss of motion in only one direction, or less severe loss in all directions there can be up to a fifty percent chance of having a rotator cuff injury. In this case, according to Ueda et al, it would be appropriate to have imaging, such as an MRI, to look further into this possibility.