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Frozen Shoulder

What is frozen shoulder & how is it caused?

Frozen shoulder, or also as it is known ‘adhesive capsulitis’ is the thickening, inflammation and shrinkage of the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint. This results in a dull, aching pain and stiffness which eventually gives a stiff freezing sensation of shoulder pain. Thus, this is why it is commonly referred to as ‘frozen shoulder’.

To go into slightly more detail, as the capsule inflames, adhesions develop around the shoulder joint which blocks the flow of synovial fluid from reaching it. This not only reduces the patient’s mobility of their shoulder and upper arm, but also the ability of a doctor to move it for them.

One of the most common causes of frozen shoulder is another shoulder injury such as tendonitis or bursitis. It can also be a result of long periods of shoulder immobilisation.

Those that are most susceptible to the condition are those aged between 40 and 70 (but more common in women), and patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes. In fact, it has been suggested that on average 15% of diabetics suffer from the condition. The reasons for this however are unfortunately unknown.

Stages of frozen shoulder

The following diagram illustrates the 3 stages of the condition – Freezing, Frozen and Thawing:



Can adhesive capsulitis be Treated?

There are different methods that can be used to try and treat Frozen Shoulder.

Non-surgical treatment

The first treatment (if the pain isn’t too overwhelming) is to try anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to reduce the swelling and shoulder pain.

However if medication isn’t enough, it may be worthwhile speaking to you GP about steroid injections such as cortisone.

In addition to this, it is imperative to perform exercises in conjunction with effective injections. Neither on their own are an adequate treatment, but together they can prove to be quite effective. Whilst it is important to consult a physical therapist, there are a few home stretching exercises that can be performed.

  1. External rotations – Start off by standing in a doorway with your arm bent at 90 degrees. Rotate your body and hold the pose for 30 seconds. Rest and Repeat.
  2. Cross arm stretch – Pull your arm across your chest (just under your chin) without causing any pain. For further exercises, please visit a physical therapist.


Also, it is important to note that if you play sports or lift weights then it is especially recommended to seek exercise advice from a physical therapist. Not only do they help increase mobility of the shoulder but they also help minimise muscle atrophy (for more information, please click the link).

During the recovery period it is important to avoid regular sporting activities as re-injury is very common.

Further treatment can be provided with our Cold Compression Therapy for Shoulder Support. Quite ironically a treatment for frozen shoulder is ice. This is because as ice is applied to the shoulder it can help reduce the swelling and stiffness. Cold compression therapy drives cold deep to the injured tissue, speeding up the rehabilitation process and aiding faster recovery.

Surgical treatment

Unfortunately there may be some more severe cases where surgery is required to cure the frozen shoulder. You should consult your GP and talk about the dangers involved and an in depth description of what the surgery involves. Here is a brief outline of what they may say:

  1. Manipulation – This is where you will be placed under anaesthesia and the surgeon will manipulate the arm to break up the adhesions. This requires no incisions.
  2. Arthroscopic capsular release – This isn’t as common, but sometimes the manipulation isn’t enough to break up the adhesions. This means an Arthroscope is inserted to cut through the adhesions.

Personal experience

Have you ever had frozen shoulder before or are you currently suffering from it? Please share with us your stories over on Facebook.

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