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Signs of frozen shoulder, causes and treatment

Updated: Mar 30

Most of us have experienced pain, stiffness in the shoulder area that passes in a short period. When do we call that condition a frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis as medical jargon names it? Frozen shoulder is a condition of a relatively long period of pain and stiffness in the shoulder where the symptoms become worse over time, and even if they step back for a while, the total recovery can take up to 3 years.

Women experience a frozen shoulder condition more frequently than men. The most common age interval is 40-60 years old.

Common Signs

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, typical frozen shoulder condition develops in three stages:

At first, you feel tightness in your shoulder. By the time the pain increases more and more, and it becomes difficult to move your shoulder. This stage is called “freezing” that can last 6 weeks, or even 9 months. Typical pain is persistent, dull feeling that is worst at the beginning because you still try to move your arm.

The second stage is called “frozen,” and you may feel less pain at that stage; however, the stiffness resists, thus creating challenges in daily activities.

The third stage, called “thawing,” continues up to two years to recover completely and return to the initial state. During this period, you will better gradually; improved motion in the shoulder, less pain and stiffness.

What does cause a frozen shoulder?

There is no exact known reason for a frozen shoulder. Immobilization of the shoulder for an extended period (can be due to surgery or other injuries) may cause the frozen shoulder. Diabetes, thyroid disorders, Parkinson’s disease, rotator cuff disorder are among the conditions, possibly causing a frozen shoulder.


Conventional treatments include surgery and several non-surgical methods. Non-surgical methods include physical therapy, treatment with anti-inflammatory medications and steroids.

Physical treatment includes stretching, strengthening exercises to restore the full function of your shoulder capsule. Physical therapists can help you develop a program that has no risk of damaging muscles or joints by helping you gradually improve the condition with minimum pain. Harvard Health Publishing suggests several stretching exercises to release a frozen shoulder. Stretching exercises can be performed under the supervision or individually, and usually don’t require any equipment.

If non-surgical treatment is not sufficient, your doctor may discuss surgical methods. Two conventional methods are available – manipulation under anesthesia or shoulder arthroscopy. Under the first scenario, the doctor manipulates, moves your shoulder under anesthesia to impose stretching. During the shoulder arthroscopy, doctors cut through the tight parts. Patients continue to accept physical therapy after the surgical intervention to return to normal motion.

Our team of physiotherapists is ready to assess, consult and suggest the best treatment suitable for your condition. Here at Hydroactive, we apply several treatment methods like interferential current therapy, laser therapy, manual therapy, taping techniques, vestibular rehabilitation, laser therapy and therapeutic ultrasound to optimize the treatment program individually designed for you. You can learn more about physiotherapy for a frozen shoulder and other conditions on our website.

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