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  • Writer's pictureDave the physio

What IS Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is an inflammatory condition of the shoulder joint, resulting in pain, stiffness and thickening of the joint capsule. Its cause is unknown, and symptoms can sometimes last up to 2 years. Therefore it is important to identify and treat early, in order to retain as much function as possible and encourage faster recovery.

What causes the shoulder to ‘freeze’?

The specific cause of frozen shoulder remains unknown, however there are thought to be some predisposing factors that can place an individual at greater risk of developing the condition. It is particularly prevalent in people between the ages of 40-65 - more commonly in women than men. Other factors such as a previous episode of frozen shoulder, history of shoulder trauma, diabetes and thyroid conditions can also place an individual at higher risk.

What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder has 3 stages, each with differing symptoms:

1. Freezing: This early stage is primarily characterised by pain and a gradual reduction in shoulder range of motion

2. Frozen: In this middle stage, pain starts to subside, however the joint becomes extremely stiff

3. Thawing: The final stage of frozen shoulder involves a slow return of shoulder range of motion, with marked muscle weakness due to a period of immobility

What can I do to prevent or treat frozen shoulder?

Unfortunately frozen shoulder cannot be prevented. However certain strategies can be taken in order to better manage symptoms and encourage faster recovery. In the earlier stages of the condition, management of symptoms should be the main focus. This can be done using heat packs, gentle massage, taping or any other method of pain relief that is effective. In this early stage, a balance between exercise frequency and intensity is essential so as not to aggravate the joint by working too hard.

In the later stages of the condition when pain begins to subside, alleviating stiffness becomes the major focus of treatment. Stretching and strengthening exercises around the joint can be performed, along with some manual therapy by your physiotherapist. When stiffness and pain is completely resolved, ongoing strengthening exercises need to be performed in order to regain full function of the joint. This can sometimes take a while depending on the period of immobility, however it is an extremely important part of maximising recovery.


  • The clinical course of frozen shoulder can often last up to 2 years

  • Do not seek out intense or aggressive treatment in the early stages of the condition - this may exacerbate symptoms and delay recovery

  • Strengthening and stretching exercises are essential in the later stage in order to maximise function once full recovery occurs

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of frozen shoulder or are seeking treatment following an episode, book with us today!

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