Frozen Shoulder

What is it ?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, occurs when the connective tissue that encases the shoulder joint tightens, restricting its movement. 


Frozen shoulder typically consists of three stages, which develop slowly. The timeline for each stage varys per case. 

  1. Freezing stage:  Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, and your shoulder’s range of motion starts to become limited.
  2. Frozen stage: Pain may begin to diminish during this stage. However, your shoulder becomes stiffer, range of motion decreases and becomes more difficult. 
  3. Thawing stage: The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.


Unfortunately, the true cause for Frozen shoulder is uncertain ; however, frozen shoulder is more likely to occur in those who have been immobile for prolonged periods, such as post surgical, stroke or fracture. 

Others could be : 

  • People with diabetes
  • People 40 or older, women more so than men. 
  • Rotator cuff injury  


The most common treatment for Frozen shoulder is Physical Therapy to help break down scar tissue buildup helping increase mobility and decrease pain. Exercises and PT can also help improve muscle strength is musculature that has atrophied due to lack of use.  Other potential treatments include: 

  • Anti-Inflammatory medication: always speak with your doctor before taking any new medications. Similar to ice/heat this will attempt to decrease inflammation and pain. 
  • Heat/Ice: this may help to reduce the pain and inflammation in the shoulder. 
  • Cortico-steroid injection: To further decrease inflammation your doctor may give you a steroid in the area of pain. 
  • Surgery: For frozen shoulder, you may undergo two surgeries, both done under anesthesia. The first will be to move your arm into various positions to stretch the tight tissue. If there is too much scar tissue then the second surgery may be given to cut through the tissue that may be leading to pain and immobility. Typically this will be the last resort if all other forms of treatment prove unsuccessful. 


If you fall under the category of someone post surgery, break or stroke you can speak with your doctor about physical therapy. Physical Therapy can provide you with  exercises or movements to help prevent prolonged immobility and likelihood of frozen shoulder. To see a few examples of mobility exercises for frozen shoulder, check out our blog.