Frozen Shoulder


Frozen shoulder (also known as adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder) is a painful condition that also causes shoulder stiffness. It is thought to be due to tightening of the shoulder capsule.  Physiotherapy treatment has been proven to ease and improve the outcome of Frozen shoulder.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include pain and stiffness of the shoulder movement.  The symptoms typically have three phases:

  • Phase one – the ‘freezing’ phase. This typically lasts 2-9 months. It is a very painful stage and there is an onset of limited movement at the shoulder.
  • Phase two – the ‘frozen’ phase. This typically lasts 4-12 months. Pain may ease in this stage but limited movement may get worse.  As the movement limitation progresses, this leads to weakness of the shoulder muscles.
  • Phase three – the ‘thawing’ phase. This typically lasts between 1 -2 years.  The pain and stiffness will gradually ease and normal movement of the shoulder can return.  Unfortunately without intervention, limited movement at the shoulder joint can remain.

Symptoms interfere with daily activities, putting clothes on and taking them off become difficult.  Driving and exercise, especially overhead movements are affected.  Sleep is disturbed as it is hard to find a comfortable position painfree.

What causes frozen shoulder?

Sometimes a frozen shoulder develops after a shoulder injury, but more commonly it occurs without any cause. We are still unsure why it occurs.

It is thought that bands of scar tissue form in the shoulder capsule, causing it to thicken, swell and tighten. This causes the pain, and limited movement at the shoulder joint.  The reason why the scar tissue forms remains unknown.

shoulder anatomy

What are the treatment options for frozen shoulder?

Physiotherapy is very helpful to ease pain at the shoulder joint.  Also most importantly your physio will perform manual interventions to stretch and push your shoulder range of movement.  You will be guided through a home exercise programme aimed at maintaining and restoring as much movement as possible.  This will be essential to keep the range of shoulder movement as good as possible as the condition clears.

What is the outlook?

The symptoms of frozen shoulder can continue for 18 months to 3 years or more. Physiotherapy intervention has been proven to aid recovery from frozen shoulder and restore you to normal function.


If you have shoulder pain, pop into us at Motion Physio Clinic, Prosperous, Tel: 045 841010.  I can perform an assessment, give you a diagnosis and treat you as required.



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