About frozen shoulder and our treatment for it

Frozen shoulder summary

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, effects the shoulder. It is a condition that progresses from an initial pain to joint stiffness and difficulty moving the shoulder, before gradually returning to normal. The cause is not fully understood, and recovery can take months or even years.


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What is frozen shoulder?
Frozen shoulder is when the tissue surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and stiff, causing pain and impacting your ability to move the shoulder. There are three stages of the condition, starting with the pain which develops into a stiff and restrictive shoulder, before gradually returning to normal. Often this can occur for no apparent reason, though it is a debilitating condition which can take months or even years to correct.
What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder?

The symptoms are best identified as part of the three stages:

  1. Pain – the shoulder aches and feels very painful, with the pain often worst at night and during cold weather. This stage can last for up to 9 months in severe cases.
  2. Frozen – Stage two is when the shoulder feels stiff, with movement becoming more restricted. By this stage the pain will begin to subside but the lack of ability to use the shoulder results in muscle stiffness and inactivity. This stage can last up to 12 months.
  3. Recovery – during the last stage, the shoulder gradually regains its range of motion with range varying between individual cases. As the stiffness eases the pain decreases, but this stage can take between 1 and 2 years due to the extent of inactivity and muscle loss from the initial injury.
How long will my symptoms last?

Recovery is slow and can last up to two years.

What is the cause of frozen shoulder?

The cause of frozen shoulder is not fully known, though it effects around 1 in 20 people, generally over the age of 40.

Frozen shoulder can either come on for no apparent reason, or else may come about following a trauma to the shoulder.

In both cases, frozen shoulder is believed to be caused by adhesions of scar tissue inside the shoulder joint, causing it to swell and tighten in the socket. This in turn decreases the flow of fluid through the joint, restricting movement of the shoulder.

What is the treatment for frozen shoulder?

The treatment you receive depends on the severity of the condition and will change as you go through each of the three stages of the condition. Stage one requires a focus on pain management and gentle exercise, whereas as the condition develops you will require further emphasis on dealing with the stiffness in the joint. This calls for more aggressive exercises to increase movement and eventually strengthen the muscles which will have wasted away due to inactivity.

Why is it important for me to do prescribed exercises?

The exercises will maintain and improve joint mobility at all stages of the condition, thus relieving pain and stiffness. Doing each exercise as prescribed will help you to regain full movement as early as the condition allows.