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Frozen Shoulder

  • What is Frozen Shoulder?

    Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that results in loss of movement, and pain or stiffness in the shoulder. This pain and loss of movement can affect daily activities.

  • There are 2 main categories of frozen shoulder:

    • Frozen shoulder can occur with no obvious cause.
    • Swelling causes parts of the capsule in the shoulder joint to thicken and scar. This reduces the space in the shoulder joint, limiting the ability to move and causing the shoulder to 'freeze'.


    There are several risk factors for frozen shoulder:

    • Age older than 40 years
    • Endocrine disorders – eg. diabetes, cardiac disease, thyroid problems, Parkinson's disease, or from past surgery
    • Gender – Women are more at risk than men
    • Lack of use of the shoulder for a long period of time due to injury or pain that limits movement
  • The most obvious symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain and a limited range of movement.

    There are 3 stages of a frozen shoulder:

    • Stage 1, freezing stage: this is the painful stage and shoulder movement is limited. This stage normally lasts from 6 – 12 weeks
    • Stage 2, frozen stage: the pain lessens, but the stiffness remains. This stage generally lasts from 4 – 6 months
    • Stage 3, thawing stage: in the final stage, the movement in the arm slowly improves. This stage can last more than 1 year
  • The aim of treatment is to control the pain and restore movement and strength. Treatments include:

    • Manipulation under anaesthesia to ease the tightness and increase the range of movement
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling
    • Physiotherapy to help restore movement
    • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation (swelling) and allow movement
    • Surgery to release the tight joint capsule
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