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Frozen Shoulder Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on August 22, 2011

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition that causes restriction of motion in the shoulder joint. Frozen shoulder may develop slowly as the joint becomes stiff and inflamed. It typically affects only one shoulder, although one in five cases, motion may limited in both arms. Frozen shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis. Below you will find frozen shoulder symptoms and treatment.

Causes of frozen shoulder:

The cause of frozen shoulder is not fully understood. Frozen shoulder affects patients between the ages 40 to 60 years. It is more common in women than in men. Some of the risk factors for developing frozen shoulder may include diabetes, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, parkinson's disease, a period of enforced immobility resulting from trauma, injury or surgery.

Frozen shoulder symptoms
Frozen shoulder symptoms

Signs and symptoms of frozen shoulder:

  • Limited motion is an early symptom of frozen shoulder.
  • Painful and stiff shoulder
  • Difficulties with activities such as brushing your hair and lifting your arm above your head.
  • Pain when trying to sleep on the affected shoulder.

Frozen shoulder develops slowly. There are 3 stages of development.

1. Freezing stage or painful stage: Painful stage may last from 6 weeks to 12 weeks. Pain increases with movement and often worsens at night.

2.Frozen or adhesive stage: Frozen or adhesive stage may last from 4 months to 6 months. Pain begins to diminish, but the stiffness remains.

3. Thawing stage or recovery: Thawing stage may last from 5 to 26 months. In this stage, pain may slowly returns toward normal.

Diagnosis of frozen shoulder: Doctors diagnose frozen shoulder based on symptoms and physical exam. During the physical exam, the doctor may tell you to preform certain actions to check for pain and examine range of motion. Doctors may also suggest imaging tests such as x-ray, MRI scan or arthrogram.

X-ray: X-ray is a test to take pictures of structures inside your body.

MRI: MRI uses magnetic radiation waves to examine the soft tissues around the shoulder.

Arthrogram: A contrast dye is injected into the shoulder joint.

Frozen shoulder exercises
Frozen shoulder exercises

Non surgical options:

Treatment for frozen shoulder involves exercises such as stretching exercises, physiotherapy and hot compression packs. People who suffer from frozen shoulder may have difficulties performing daily activities.

1. Exercises: Exercises can prevent and reverse the stiffness in the shoulder.

2. Hot pack: Hot compression pack helps to relieve pain and swelling.

3. Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy may help to stretchen muscles and restore motion and function to the shoulder.

4. Medications: Pain is also treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.

5. Corticosteroid injections: It is a type of steroid hormone that reduces pain and swelling. Corticosteroids may be injected into the shoulder joint to alleviate pain. Cotisone injections is often administered during the freezing and frozen stages.

If you have shoulder pain and stiffness, consult your health care provider before performing any treatment.


1. Closed manipulation surgery: Closed manipulation surgery is a forceful movement of the arm at the shoulder joint. This is performed under anesthesia. Also it is followed by intensive physical therapy. Closed manipulation surgery is done to loosen the stiffness.

2.Shoulder arthrogram: A small tube is inserted through a small incision into the shoulder joint to remove any scar tissue.

Frozen shoulder exercises:


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    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 5 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you for this hub. I have been having some left arm pain, and wondered if it could be frozen shoulder. Your hub has helped me to better understand my pain and led me to think of treatment options:)

    • urmilashukla23 profile image

      Urmila 6 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

      I heard it`s so painful. My sister in law has suffered with frozen shoulder almost a year and finally she had to go thru a surgery. Now she is fine. Useful information. Voted up!

    • profile image

      karen 6 years ago

      Now I know what's wrong with my arm,thank you.

    • profile image

      Abhay Jain 6 years ago

      interesting and very informative for people who want to know about frozen shoulder.....great

    • eye say profile image

      eye say 6 years ago from Canada

      this is great - I've been in physio for months for my frozen shoulder but it scares me to death - so I'm very thankful to see some extra exercises that look safe for me to add to my therapy at home.

      great info, thanks again! voting up again

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Very informative hub. I have never experienced frozen shoulder but have heard of it and don't want to ever. Voted up and useful.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 6 years ago

      The exercises shown in the pictures and the video are great.