Joint distension may improve shoulder stiffness

In people with adhesive capsulitis, also known as “frozen shoulder,” scar-like adhesions have formed in the shoulder joint, causing pain and limited mobility, as though the shoulder is frozen in place. Joint distension, or hydrodilatation, involves injection of sterile water into the joint to expand the area and help the adhesions loosen and pull away so the shoulder is no longer restricted. Joint distension is a less invasive alternative to shoulder surgery.

How joint distension works and what it does

During the treatment you’ll be lying down while the physician uses X-ray technology to guide placement of the injection. First, you’ll receive a local anesthetic and often an injection of corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation and pain in the shoulder. An injection of saline (salt water) is then injected into the area to “distend” it—breaking up the adhesions that are sticking to the bone and limiting your movement.

The procedure takes only about 20 minutes and you will be able to resume normal activities immediately afterward.

Results for some patients may be immediate relief from pain and return to near-normal shoulder function. For others, an additional injection may be needed. As with any treatment, the success of joint distension varies among patients.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.