Causes and treatment options for a frozen shoulder

A frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis refers to a condition where you suffer from shoulder pain accompanied by limited mobility. The tendons, ligaments, and bones that form part of the shoulder joint are encased within the capsule of connective tissues. In this case, the frozen shoulder will develop when the connective tissues surrounding the shoulder thicken, causing pain and limiting mobility.


Doctors have not comprehensively determined the exact cause of a frozen shoulder. However, this condition is likely to happen among people with diabetes or those who have immunized their shoulders for an extended period, especially after an arm fracture or surgery.

Risk factors

Certain conditions might increase the likelihood of one developing an adhesive capsulitis condition.

Systemic diseases

People with certain conditions appear to have a likelihood of suffering from a frozen shoulder. Some of the conditions that increase the risk include:

Reduced mobility

People who have suffered from reduced mobility or extended immobility of the shoulder risk developing an adhesive capsulitis condition. Immobility can happen due to recovery from surgery, stroke, broken arm, and rotator cuff injury.

Age and sex

People above 40 years of age, especially women, are likely to suffer from a frozen shoulder.

Signs and symptoms of a frozen shoulder

The limited shoulder mobility occurs in three stages:

Freezing stage

Under the freezing stage, your shoulder will become stiff and painful to move. The pain will increase slowly, and it might worsen at night. Also, the inability to move the shoulder will increase. The freezing stage can last between six weeks to around nine months.

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Frozen stage

The pain might reduce, but they should remain stiff. That will make it more challenging for you to undertake daily activities and tasks. The stage lasts between two and six months.

Thawing stage

The pain will reduce, and the ability to move should continue to improve slowly. In this case, the patient will start to experience recovery due to the return of normal motion and strength. The stage lasts between six and around two years.

Treatment options

The treatment options for a frozen shoulder vary according to the patient and their condition. Most treatments aim to minimize pain and restore range of motion.


Patients with severe cases can receive surgery. In particular, doctors can undertake arthroscopic shoulder surgery to remove scar tissue, causing a frozen shoulder. In this case, doctors conduct small incisions, meaning the surgery is less invasive, and generally, the downtime will be reduced.

Non-surgical treatment options

  • Manipulation under anesthesia enables doctors to move the arm to eliminate adhesions.
  • Hydrodilatation involves a saline injection to the affected shoulder joint to disintegrate the adhesions and enhance shoulder volume.
  • Injections of corticosteroids enable shoulder pain and inflammation to reduce
  • Physiotherapy modalities such as heat therapy, ultrasound, and trigger point massage that help the body relax
  • Use of over-the-pain relievers or prescription anti-inflammatory medications to assist in alleviating inflammation and pain.
  • Frozen shoulder specialist can administer stretching exercises to prevent atrophy of the surrounding shoulder muscles and enhance range of motion.

A frozen shoulder is painful and can limit you from undertaking your normal activities. If you suspect that you are having an issue with your shoulders, you need to contact a certified frozen shoulder specialist near you for an assessment. Fortunately, there are several treatment options to help patients suffering from adhesive capsulitis conditions.

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