Frozen shoulder

15 Oct Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder- what is it?

Frozen shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis and is characterised by pain and stiffness of the shoulder joint. This condition typically occurs gradually, worsens over time and then resolves usually over a period of 18-24 months. It is thought to affect 2-5% of the population

frozen shoulder

Why does it occur?

Frozen shoulder occurs when the shoulder capsule and connective tissue around the joint become stiff and thickened restricting the range of motion and causing pain.

Although often it can be unclear, it is more likely to occur in people with higher risk factors and have recently had to immobilize their shoulder for a long period (eg. following surgery, fracture, significant shoulder injury).


What are the risk factors?

Factors that may increase your risk include:

  • Aged between 40-60 years;
  • Women make up 70% of people suffering from a frozen shoulder;
  • If you suffer other health problems such as diabetes, lung disease, connective tissue disorders, heart disease and stroke;
  • If you have a long period of reduced mobility (following shoulder surgery, stroke, rotator cuff injury, broken arm/shoulder)


What are the signs and symptoms?

There are three distinct phases of the frozen shoulder:

  • Freezing – phase one
    •  gradual increase in pain and progressive loss of movement. This phase usually lasts 3-9 months.
  • Frozen – phase two
    • stiffness dominates this phase. Often painfree towards the ends of this phase. This phase usually lasts 9-15 months
  • Thawing – phase three
    • gradual return of movement. This phase usually lasts 15-24 months.


What is the best treatment?

frozen shoulder treatment

Management will depend on an accurate diagnosis of your injury and stage of frozen shoulder if this is your diagnosis.

Management for each phase:

Freezing – pain relief and exclusion of other potential injuries. May include gentle mobilisation of the joint, taping to help relieve pain, dry needling.

Frozen – strengthening, specific massage techniques and assisted movement techniques help to regain motion during this stage. Adjuncts may include dry needling, home exercises and stretching.

Thawing – assisted stretching and mobilisation during this phase assist in returning to movement as soon as able. In addition to a home strength and stretching program.


Frozen shoulder is a frustrating injury, however with appropriate advice and care you will achieve the best outcome. They resolve over a period of 18-24 months and 60-80% will respond favourable to conservative management alone.


If you think you may be suffering with frozen shoulder you can consult with one of our shoulder physios today (BOOK HERE).