Frozen Shoulder – risk factors, symptoms and treatment

Frozen Shoulder – risk factors, symptoms and treatment

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. It occurs when the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint thickens and tightens, restricting movement and causing pain. Frozen shoulder is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60, and it affects women more often than men. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at frozen shoulder, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is still unknown, but there are several risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing this condition. These risk factors include:

  • Diabetes: People with diabetes are more likely to develop frozen shoulder than those without the condition.
  • Shoulder injury or surgery: A previous shoulder injury or surgery can increase the risk of developing frozen shoulder.
  • Immobilization: Prolonged immobilization of the shoulder joint, such as wearing a sling, can increase the risk of developing frozen shoulder.
  • Other health conditions: People with thyroid disorders, Parkinson’s disease, or cardiovascular disease may also be at increased risk of developing frozen shoulder.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

The main symptom of frozen shoulder is pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. The pain may be felt deep in the shoulder and may worsen at night. The stiffness may make it difficult to perform daily activities such as getting dressed, brushing your hair, or reaching overhead. Frozen shoulder typically progresses through three stages:

  1. Freezing Stage: During this stage, pain and stiffness gradually increase and movement becomes more limited.
  2. Frozen Stage: During this stage, the pain may decrease, but the stiffness remains, making movement even more limited.
  3. Thawing Stage: During this stage, the stiffness gradually improves and movement begins to return to the shoulder joint.

Treatment of Frozen Shoulder

The treatment of frozen shoulder typically involves a combination of medication, physical therapy, and/or surgery. Here are some common treatment options:

  1. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers with active ingredients such as diclofenac, aspirin or ibuprofen can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  2. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can help to stretch and strengthen the shoulder joint, improving range of motion and reducing pain. We are able to tailor a pilates program to help improve your movement in this area – and have also had great results with clients undertaking Structural Integration sessions here in the studio treatment room.
  3. Injections: Steroid injections can help to reduce inflammation and pain in the shoulder joint.
  4. Surgery: If other treatments have not been successful, surgery may be necessary to release the tight capsule and improve movement in the shoulder joint.


If you are experiencing symptoms of frozen shoulder, it’s important to seek medical attention to determine the best course of treatment for you. Physical therapy is generally the cornerstone of treatment options, and if done in the right way, it may avoid the need to have injections or surgery. If you have frozen shoulder and are looking for a physical therapy program, we can help you right here in our studio under close supervision. Alongside learning how far to push yourself, and your body’s limitations, we will also teach you exercises to continue at home, between classes. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more



  1. Baums, M. H., & Spahn, G. (2015). Shoulder adhesive capsulitis. Orthopedics, 38(9), e804-e813.
  2. Bunker, T. D. (2017). Frozen shoulder: unravelling the enigma. Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 99(1), 1-3.
  3. Kelley, M. J., McClure, P. W., & Leggin, B. G. (2009). Frozen shoulder: evidence and a proposed model guiding rehabilitation. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 39(2), 135-148.
  4. Maund, E., Craig, D., Suekarran, S., Neil
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