Are you unable to reach your back, reach your shoulder height or even having trouble tucking in your shirt? You could be suffering from Frozen shoulder (Adhesive capsulitis).

Frozen shoulder?

This is stiffness, pain and limited range of movement in your shoulder. The tissues around the joint stiffen, scar tissue forms, and shoulder movements become difficult and painful. The condition usually comes on slowly, and then goes away slowly over a period of time.

What causes frozen shoulder?   

   The bones, ligaments and tendons that make up for your shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting its movement.
Certain factors may increase your risk of developing this:

  • Age and sex; people 40 and older, particularly women, are more likely to have frozen shoulder.
  • Immobility or reduced mobility; This may be as a result of many factors, including:
  • Rotator cuff
  • Broken arm
  • Stroke
  • Recovery from surgery
  • Systemic diseases; These are some diseases that might increase your risk:
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

Diagnosis of frozen shoulder

An x-ray is done to see whether symptoms are from another condition such as arthritis or a broken bone.  However a clinical diagnosis of frozen shoulder should be determined by a thorough examination. Your physiotherapist will ask about what physical activities you are having difficulty performing.

Common issues include; Unable to

  • reach above shoulder height
  • throw a ball
  • quickly reach for something
  • reach behind your back e.g. bra or tuck shirt
  • reach out to your side and behind e.g. reach for seat belt
  • sleep on your side


Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly, and in three stages, each stage can last a number of months.

  • Freezing stage. Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, therefore your shoulder’s range of motion starts to become limited.
  • Frozen stage. Pain may begin to diminish during this stage. However, your shoulder becomes stiffer and using it becomes more difficult.
  • Thawing stage. As a result, the range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.

For some people, the pain worsens at night, sometimes disrupting sleep.

Can frozen shoulder be prevented?

Gentle, progressive range of motion exercises, stretching and using your shoulder more, may help prevent frozen shoulder after surgery or an injury.

How is frozen shoulder treated?

  • Start with application of heat to the affected area however followed by gentle stretching.
  • Ice may also be used to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Exercises to help increase the range of motion

Sometimes arthroscopic surgery may be indicated to loosen the joint capsule so that it can move freely.

Written By,
Eunice Kabana,
Physical Therapist
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre

Frozen Shoulder

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