Adhesive capsulitis (AC) is very poorly understood, particularly it's underlying etiology. Obesity and metabolic syndrome, which are strongly associated with chronic low grade inflammation, are becoming increasingly understood to underlie a raft of morbid states including upper limb pain syndromes, diabetes (DM), cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer and central nervous system dysfunction and degeneration. Notwithstanding age, two of the strongest established risk factors for AC are DM and CVD. The hypothesis argues that similar to DM and CVD, the inflammation and capsular fibrosis seen in AC is precipitated by metabolic syndrome and chronic low grade inflammation. These pathophysiological mechanisms are highly likely to be perpetuated by upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokine production, sympathetic dominance of autonomic balance, and neuro-immune activation. The hypothesis predicts and describes how these processes may etiologically underpin and induce each sub-classification of AC. An improved understanding of the etiology of AC may lead to more accurate diagnosis, improved management, treatment outcomes, and reduce or prevent pain, disability and suffering associated with the disease. The paper follows on with a discussion of similarities between the pathophysiology of AC to general systemic inflammatory control mechanisms whereby connective tissue (CT) fibrosis is induced as a storage depot for leukocytes and chronic inflammatory cells. The potential role of hyaluronic acid (HA), the primary component of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and CT, in the pathophysiology of AC is also discussed with potential treatment implications. Lastly, a biochemical link between physical and mental health through the ECM is described and the concept of a periventricular-limbic central driver of CT dysfunction is introduced.
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