Shoulder & Elbow : Arthroscopic Capsular Release

The reason you are going to have a capsular release is because you have a stiff shoulder and the aim of the operation is to improve the movement in your shoulder.

A stiff shoulder may sometimes be called a ’frozen shoulder’; or you may have developed stiffness following an injury or a previous operation to your shoulder. As you are aware, having a frozen shoulder can be a very painful condition and it limits the amount you can move your arm.

You may have already tried a course of physiotherapy and/or had an injection in your shoulder to help pain relief.

You probably find it difficult lifting your arm up, turning it outwards and putting it behind your back.

What is the shoulder capsule?

The capsule is the lining of the shoulder joint, and it is normally a fairly loose membrane to allow you to stretch your arm in all directions easily.

When you have a ’frozen shoulder’ the capsule tightens up and therefore limits the amount of movement you can do, this can also make it painful to move. Surgery involves cutting through the tight capsule and therefore ’releasing’ it. This should give you more movement and less pain.

After the operation, it may take up to 6 weeks for the post-operative soreness of your shoulder to settle down. It is vital that you get your shoulder moving with the help of a physiotherapist after the operation; otherwise it will stiffen up again.

How is the operation carried out?

The operation is carried out under a general anaesthetic, usually as a day case. This means you will go home on the day of your operation. Some patients who have other medical conditions may require an overnight stay in hospital.

The procedure is carried out as keyhole (arthroscopic) surgery.

What are the benefits of having an Arthroscopic Capsular Release?

The benefit of this operation is increased shoulder movement and hopefully decreased pain.

Are there complications of having an Arthroscopic Capsular Release?

As with most types of surgery, there are risks and complications which can occur unrelated to the capsular release.

Rare complications that can occur specifically with a capsular release are:


  • Re-stiffening of the joint can occur but your physiotherapist will advise you of appropriate exercises to minimise this risk.

  • Infection can be a serious complication but the risk is very small.

  • Damage to the nerves can occur as many of the large nerves and blood vessels that enter the arm pass closely to the site of the operation; but it is very rare that any permanent damage can occur.


These risks are very small but if any occur, further treatment or an operation may be necessary.

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