Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder- Causes and Symptoms

This is a painful condition where the shoulder becomes immovable. It is usually associated with stiffness and inflammation. When this happens, there is limited to no movement of the shoulder. Adhesive Capsulitis, as often called, happens when there is stiffness and inflammation of the strong connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint.  This condition is referred to as a frozen shoulder in layman’s terms.

Signs and Symptoms

Frozen shoulder symptoms occur in three stages

  • Freezing stage: Stiffness and pain prevent the shoulder from moving in this stage. While pain increase gradually, it may become severe at night. Shoulder immovability increases and may last six weeks to nine months.
  • Frozen stage: Stiffness remains while pain may reduce in this stage. Completing tasks is difficult. The frozen stage can stay up to two to six months
  • Thawing/Recovery: Pain reduces here, and gradual movement of the shoulder begins. As motion comes back, full recovery comes closer. Thawing may last about six to twenty-four months.

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

New research in frozen shoulder indicates that muscle guarding and subsequent muscle spasm is a major cause of the restrictions in movement seen with this condition. At Reach Physiotherapy, we find success from working alongside the massage therapists within our team. These dedicated individuals work alongside the physios to reduce muscle tension and work to restore movement.

The shoulder joints consist of bones, tendons, and ligaments encased in connective capsule tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when there is thickness and tightness of the joint found in the shoulder. This stiffness impedes the shoulder’s movement. It remains unknown to doctors as to what triggers this condition in some people. However, what is known is that the chances of occurrence are high in people with diabetes. People who have recently undergone shoulder immobilisation due to fracture or other injuries may also suffer this.

Risk Factors

A few factors may be responsible for frozen shoulder in people.

  • Sex and Age: People who have clocked the age of 40 and above, especially women, have higher chances of suffering from frozen shoulder.
  • Inadequate mobility: People may develop frozen shoulders if they do not have adequate mobility. Inadequate mobility or prolonged immobility can result from certain factors such as injury of the rotator cuff, stroke, fracture, and surgical recovery.
  • Systemic Disease: The chances of developing frozen shoulder in people can be high if they suffer from certain systemic diseases. Also, the chances of developing a frozen shoulder are high with these diseases;
  • Parkinson’s
  • Cardiovascular
  • Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes

Preventing Frozen Shoulder

Different factors may cause a frozen shoulder. However, the most prevalent among these causes is the inability to move the shoulder during the recovery process or stage from fracture or stroke. For people who have suffered from injuries that restrict the movement of their shoulder, talking to a doctor or physiotherapist about suitable exercise will be helpful. This will help in maintaining the motion demands of the joints located in the shoulder.

Treating Frozen Shoulder

Treating this condition in most cases involves pain relief methods until an individual leaves the initial stage. In some cases, the problem may persist, and when this happens, therapy or surgical operations may be the solution for regaining motion should it not return on its own. Some simple treatments of frozen shoulder include;

  • Compressing the spot with cold or hot materials. These will greatly help in reducing swelling and pain in the affected part.
  • Engaging in physical activities such as motion range exercise and stretching can help relieve pain. However, the exercise must be taught and recommended by an expert physical therapist
  • Non-stop home exercise.
  • The use of pain-relieving tablets will help suppress pain and swelling. Doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including Ibuprofen. You may also treat the pain with other painkillers/anti-inflammatory drugs according to your doctor’s prescription. Managing a more severe pain can require steroid injections.


Although frozen shoulder has no steady cause and treatment, medical professionals can easily identify and manage the effects. There are also preventive measures for people with the likelihood to develop this physical condition. Make sure to consult your doctor if you are suffering from this illness. Our Chartered Physiotherapists at Reach Physiotherapy Brighton can assist with this condition, increasing mobility and preventing physical pain.


* Contact Reach Physiotherapy for a list of references used for this blog content.