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  • Frozen Shoulder

    Frozen Shoulder

    Frozen Shoulder, otherwise known as Adhesive Capsulitis, is characterized by stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion in the shoulder that develops gradually, gets worse, and then finally goes away. Pain from frozen shoulder is usually dull or aching, and typically gets worse during the movement of the joint. The pain is usually located over the outer shoulder area and sometimes the upper arm.

    Frozen shoulder is the result of inflammation, scarring, thickening, and shrinkage of the capsule that surrounds the normal shoulder joint, which restricts its movement.

    Signs and Symptoms:

    – Progressively worsening pain and stiffness
    – Strength is generally unaffected, with intact rotator cuff function, but can be limited by pain
    – Increasing difficulty with daily activities
    – Night pain and pain that awakens patients from sleep
    – Some patients have pain that radiates into the neck, back or upper arm due to shoulder fatigue
    – Physical exam of a frozen shoulder demonstrates loss of both active and passive ROM
    – This motion loss may be globally restricted in all ranges
    – Loss of external rotation

    Risk Factors:

    –  Age (typically affects people 40-65 years of age)
    –  Thyroid disease
    –  Diabetes
    – History of surgery or trauma to shoulder

    There are typically several stages of frozen shoulder, each of which can last several months.

    Freezing stage: Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, and 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: The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.


    Your doctor may instruct you to take over-the-counter NSAIDS like aspirin or ibuprofen to help relieve the pain and inflammation in your shoulder. They may also recommend a corticosteroid injection in your shoulder joint to reduce your pain and improve your range of motion.

    Your treatment should also include going to a physical therapist for strengthening and stretching exercises to improve your range of motion.  Your physical therapist will instruct you in specific exercises based on your symptoms and the phase of adhesive capsulitis you are in.