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Frozen Shoulder - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Exercises

Updated: Feb 10

A Lady Suffering From Frozen Shoulder

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, occurs as a result of stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint that develops gradually over time, worsens, and then resolves. The pain from a frozen shoulder can last up to two to three years.

The terms frozen shoulder and arthritis are frequently used interchangeably. However, these two conditions are entirely distinct and unrelated. Frozen shoulders are most common in people between 40 and 60, affecting women far more than men. It usually affects one or both shoulders of a person. Frozen shoulder is very much common in females with hypothyroidism and associated diabetes the same also holds true with males but to a lesser incidence.

Symptoms Of Frozen Shoulder

Pain and stiffness are common symptoms of frozen shoulders, making movement difficult or impossible.

Frozen Shoulder Stages

A frozen shoulder usually progresses through three stages. Each of these stages has its own set of symptoms and timetable.

1. Freezing stage:

At this stage, an individual experiences pain in their shoulder whenever they move it. These pains can be severe at times and worsen over time. People in this stage frequently report that their pain worsens at night. These symptoms can last anywhere between 2 and 6 months. During this stage, your ability to move your shoulder is restricted.

2. Frozen stage:

The pain in your shoulder subsides, but your stiffness persists and worsens in the frozen stage. Any shoulder movement becomes more complex, making daily activities much more difficult. This stage can last anywhere from 4 to 12 months.

3. The thawing stage:

In this stage, an individual's shoulder range of motion improves with a complete stage to normal or close to normal strength and movement. This stage typically takes six months to 2 years to complete.


Our shoulder comprises three bones that form a ball and socket joint. They are commonly classified as,

1. The forearm (Humerus)

2. The blade of the shoulder (Scapula)

3. The collarbone (Clavicle)

When a person has a frozen shoulder, the capsules become thick and tight, making it difficult to move the shoulder. However, the causes of frozen shoulders in humans are unknown. A shoulder can become stiff if it is held still for a long period of time, such as after surgery or can be seen very commonly with wrist fractures in old age patients where due to immobilisation, the shoulder goes into a frozen state and is classically called shoulder hand syndrome.


Typical frozen shoulder diagnosis measures are based on the signs and symptoms that an individual experiences. Further physical examinations are performed, with particular emphasis on the arms and shoulders. A medical professional will perform basic tests such as pressing and moving the arm and shoulder to determine the severity of the problem and to analyse the range of motion in different planes of the shoulder. Typically there is a restriction of movement at the shoulder, and the person cannot take his hand towards his own back.

Imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), are frequently used to detect structural abnormalities and the status of the soft tissue envelope around the shoulder joint.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment

The primary goal of treating a frozen shoulder is to increase the range of motion and decrease pain in the shoulder area. A physical therapist is usually recommended to help improve shoulder motion. A therapist will stretch the capsule with the patient's arm and guide them through home exercises that may include a wand or overhead pulley. The therapist will advise you on a stretching routine that you should follow at least once or twice a day. Hot or cold compress packs are sometimes prescribed to relieve pain and swelling.

These exercises use a cane, a home pulley system, and an elastic cord to increase the shoulder's range of motion. Doctors typically prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate shoulder pain.