What is a frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitisis a condition involving pain and stiffness in the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder ( labrum United). It usually develops over time and can limit the functional use of your arm. Shoulder pain and tightness from frozen shoulder can make it difficult to straighten.

People with diabetes, thyroid disease, and heart disease are particularly at risk of frozen shoulder, and women are more likely than men to develop frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is most common in people over the age of 40.

This article explains the symptoms and causes of frozen shoulder. It also describes how to diagnose and treat the disease.

Symptoms and Stages

Symptoms of frozen shoulder include:

  • Dull aches or pains throughout the shoulder that may radiate to the upper arm
  • Limited range of motion of the main shoulder joint
  • Even the smallest movements can trigger pain

These symptoms can make it difficult for you to perform simple activities, such as clearing dishes or brushing your hair. You may have difficulty reaching behind your back to get things out of your back pocket. Wearing a belt can also be a pain.

Symptoms of frozen shoulder are not due to weakness, but to the actual stiffness of the joint. You will not be able to lift your arm. If others try, they won’t be able to lift it either. Usually, frozen shoulder goes away on its own without treatment. A typical progression is divided into three stages:

  • Freezing phase: when pain and limitation of movement begin
  • Freeze phase: when movement is severely restricted
  • Thaw phase: when the shoulders start to relax

It can take years to get into the thaw phase, so you’re better off seeking treatment than waiting for it to get better.

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Freeze Shoulder Phase and Recovery Time


The cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, but the condition is often associated with a systemic disorder or a disorder that affects the entire body. Such situations may include:

  • adrenal disease
  • diabetes
  • Cardiopulmonary disease
  • high cholesterol
  • Thyroid disease

Frozen shoulder is also associated with damage to the joint from injury or other shoulder problems, such as:

  • calcific tendonitis
  • dislocation
  • fracture
  • muscle or connective tissue damage
  • Osteoarthritis
  • rotator cuff tendinopathy

Frozen shoulder associated with any of these causes is considered secondary. In some cases, it can occur without any illness or injury. It is considered primary or idiopathic frozen shoulder.

Liquidity matters

Frozen shoulder can be caused by being immobile for long periods of time after an injury. If you experience a shoulder injury that requires immobilization, talk with your healthcare provider about exercises that maintain the joint’s range of motion.


With a simple self-assessment, you can get a good idea of ​​whether you have frozen shoulder. Remember, it is not a substitute for your healthcare provider’s diagnosis:

self test

Stand in front of a mirror or let someone look at you:

  1. Slowly raise your arms in front of you and above your head. If you have frozen shoulder, your arms may stop just above parallel to the ground, your shoulders and scapulae may rise unnaturally toward your ears, and this movement may cause shoulder pain. Slowly lower your arms.
  2. Slowly raise your arms to the side. If your shoulders are raised to the floor and are painful, you may have frozen shoulder. Your shoulders may also move toward your ears as in the previous exercise test.
  3. Stand with arms at your sides, elbows bent at 90 degrees. Rotate your arms outward while keeping your elbows bent to the sides. This direction of motion is called external rotation. If you have frozen shoulder, the painful side will not rotate to your pain-free arm.

at the provider’s office

If the self-test shows frozen shoulder, make an appointment with your healthcare provider or physical therapist. There are no special tests for diagnosing frozen shoulder, and it doesn’t show up on X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests. However, these types of imaging studies may be required to rule out other possible causes.

The diagnosis of frozen shoulder is usually made by looking at the range of motion of the shoulder, taking into account two types of range of motion:

  • Range of motion is the distance you can move body parts on your own.
  • Passive range of motion is the distance someone else can move a body part for you.

Many causes of shoulder pain involve only limited range of motion. It is also passively restrained due to frozen shoulder. By diagnosing and treating during the freezing phase, you may be able to stop the disease from progressing and shorten the time you have to deal with pain and functional limitations.

thorough thing

Testing the range of motion isn’t exactly itchy; it can cause discomfort. But these moves are necessary to eliminate a more serious condition: a rotator cuff tear.


Physical therapy for frozen shoulder often includes exercise to help reduce pain and possibly improve the shoulder’s range of motion. Your physical therapist can teach you what to do and what to avoid.

Typically, frozen shoulder does not affect strength, but your physical therapist may work with you to help improve the functional mobility of your arm. Anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroid injections may help relieve pain. So you can use the ice pack for 15 minutes at a time. Surgery for frozen shoulder is rarely required, but in some severe cases it is an option.

frozen shoulder exercises


Frozen shoulder involves pain and stiffness in the ball and socket joint of the shoulder. It usually develops over time and limits the functional use of your arm. Symptoms include limited range of motion in the main shoulder joint, pain with even the smallest movements, and pain throughout the shoulder that may become dull or painful and may radiate to your upper arm. The cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, but it may be related to a systemic disorder or a disorder that affects the entire body. Physical therapy for frozen shoulder usually includes exercises to help reduce pain and range of motion in the shoulder.

VigorTip words

Recovery from frozen shoulder usually requires the services of a physical therapist. If you don’t know one, ask a trusted friend or family member for a recommendation. It’s important to work with your favorite therapist and make communication easy. Sutter Health also recommends finding a therapist who works near your home or workplace. Proximity will make it easier to show up to all your appointments and keep your recovery plan on track.