What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that causes stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint.

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

Your shoulder joint is surrounded by a capsule made of connective tissue. In people with frozen shoulder, this joint capsule grows thicker and tighter, preventing the shoulder from moving.

The exact cause for this condition isn’t fully understood. But there are several risk factors that affect your likelihood of developing frozen shoulder. They include:

  • Periods of reduced shoulder mobility: Such as during recovery from surgery or a broken arm.
  • Age and gender: Frozen shoulder is most common in women over the age of 40.
  • Certain diseases: Diabetes, thyroid issues, and cardiovascular disease increase your risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

The main symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain and stiffness. These symptoms tend to begin gradually and worsen over time. 

Often, frozen shoulder will eventually get better on its own, but not for some time (usually between 1-3 years). During that time, the condition will go through three stages:

  • Freezing stage: Your range of movement starts to get limited, and any shoulder movement causes pain.
  • Frozen stage: Your shoulder becomes stiffer and difficult to use, but pain may decrease in this stage.
  • Thawing stage: Both the stiffness and pain slowly decrease over time. This is usually the longest stage.

How is Frozen Shoulder Treated?

  • Physiotherapy: Can help with pain relief, improving range of motion, and speeding up recovery
  • Medications: A variety of pain relievers and anti-inflammatories are used for frozen shoulder.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be used in rare cases where other treatments haven’t helped. It is usually an arthroscopic surgery, meaning it is performed through small incisions.

Physiotherapy for Frozen Shoulder

Physiotherapy can drastically improve the time it takes to recover from frozen shoulder. At Activa Clinics, our physiotherapists can create custom treatment plans that incorporate a variety of therapies, including:

How to Prevent Frozen Shoulder

One of the best ways to prevent frozen shoulder is to avoid periods of immobility since that’s a major risk factor. So if you are recovering from an injury or surgery, you should speak to a physiotherapist about what preventative measures you can take.

They can educate you on ways to exercise safely during your recovery and provide exercise and stretching programs to suit your specific needs.

Book an Appointment

If you think you have frozen shoulder, you should seek medical advice. There’s no reason to live with the pain and stiffness for years when treatment can provide some immediate relief and faster recovery.


Shoulder conditions often have similar symptoms, which is why at times, people might mistakenly identify a certain shoulder condition. One of the most commonly reported shoulder conditions is the frozen shoulder, but due to the similarities in symptoms and pain location, it is sometimes confused with rotated cuff tear or shoulder impingement.

The treatment time for a frozen shoulder varies from one person to another, and speeding up the process depends on whether your body will react positively to the treatment. Here are some of the common treatments that people use to speed up the process: heating and stretching the shoulder, physiotherapy, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and doing exercises like the pendulum stretch, towel stretch, finger walk, cross-body reach, and armpit stretch.

Since most shoulder conditions present similar symptoms, you’d need to undergo several tests to rule out frozen shoulders. Some of the tests include differential diagnosis, coracoid pain test, and function-related tests (head-to-neck, hand-to-scapula, and hand-to-opposite scapula). Your health care provider can also examine you to know if the symptoms you are experiencing are due to a frozen shoulder.