Frozen shoulder

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also known as ‘adhesive capsulitis’, is a condition in which the shoulder joint becomes initially very painful and then gradual stiffening until there is significant restriction in functional movements such as those for every-day tasks and work-related activities. Overhead activities and bringing your hands behind your back can be particularly difficult. These movements are often associated with manual activities in the workplace so if you are suffering from frozen shoulder at work you may need to seek help.

Frozen shoulder progresses through three phases which tend to overlap:

  1. Acute/freezing phase – this phase can last anywhere from 3-9 months. Symptoms start with shoulder pain at rest and at night.
  2. Adhesive/frozen phase – this phase can occur from about 4 months and last up until 12 months. Pain starts to reduce, and range of movement becomes more restricted. You may only notice pain at end ranges of movement.
  3. Resolution/thawing phase – spontaneous improvement in symptoms and range of movement. This phase can last anywhere between 1-3 years.

What causes frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder can be either primary or secondary. It is considered primary if the condition has come on spontaneously, with no known cause or trauma, whereas secondary frozen shoulder is often associated with trauma, surgery or other pathology such as subacromial pain.

Ultimately the cause of frozen shoulder remains unclear and is most likely multi-factorial with risk factors including systemic conditions such as diabetes and prolonged periods of inactivity of the shoulder, while it is also more prevalent in women and those aged 40-65.

How can physiotherapy help?

At Physiotherapy Matters, our physiotherapists can conduct a thorough assessment to confirm the diagnosis and work with you to help you manage pain and return to normal activity by

  1. Helping you understand your condition
  2. Developing symptom management strategies so you always feel in control
  3. Completing ergonomic workplace assessments to prevent sickness absence by temporarily adjusting your work or working environment.
  4. Providing an individualised exercise program based first around maintaining and improving shoulder mobility, then re-strengthening as able, including work hardening.
  5. Providing additional manual therapies that may help ease symptoms, such as
  6. Soft tissue massage to reduce any muscular tension which may develop as a result of the condition, and
  7. Acupuncture for reduction of pain.
  8. Referring for additional services if required including
  9. Shockwave therapy to improve the healing processes
  10. Corticosteroid injection – to reduce pain in the early stages of the condition to reduce inflammation and help you to maintain as much movement as possible.

Contact us today


No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

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