What To Do If My Shoulder Is ‘Frozen’?

What is Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where the tissues surrounding the shoulder joint become inflamed and tight. This causes pain and restriction in movements of the shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder happens in 3 stages, namely the Freezing, Frozen and Thawing stage. Each stage is characterised by different unique signs and symptoms.

  1. Freezing- Pain is worst at this stage. The shoulder does not feel very stiff but it becomes too painful to move the shoulder. This stage usually lasts between 6-12 weeks
  2. Frozen- At this stage, pain reduces but the shoulder feels stiff and tight. Daily activities such as combing the hair or scratching the back may be difficult. This stage usually lasts between 4-6 months.
  3. Thawing- The shoulder starts to feel less stiff and gradual return of shoulder motion is expected. This stage can usually take anywhere between 6 months to 2 years.

 What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

The primary cause is still unknown. However, previous shoulder injury or surgery makes you at risk of developing frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder usually affects those between 40-60 years of age. Women have an increased risk as compared to men. It is also known that diabetes increases the risk of developing frozen shoulder. Other medical problems such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease and obesity have also been associated with frozen shoulder.

How Do I Know If I Have Frozen Shoulder?

Common symptoms are dull or achy pain and stiffness around the shoulder joint. Those with frozen shoulder usually find daily activities such as reaching overhead, combing the hair, reaching for the back pocket or hooking a bra to be difficult. Most often, sleeping on the affected shoulder also brings on discomfort.

How Can Physiotherapy Help With Frozen Shoulder

shoulder massage

The most important step to treating a Frozen Shoulder is to identify the stage of the condition. This is because different stages require different approaches to deal with the symptoms. Whilst an Xray/MRI/Ultrasound scan can help with the diagnosis, a good history taking and a detailed physical examination is able to accurately identify the signs and symptoms. A visit to the Physiotherapist for a consultation can help to identify the stage of the frozen shoulder. If pain medications, injections or anti-inflammatory drugs or further investigations are needed to help manage the pain especially in the freezing stage, we can refer you to a doctor to get the necessary treatment/investigations. Depending on the severity of your condition, physiotherapists will be able to customise and guide you in the management of your shoulder pain. Physiotherapy sessions usually comprise of manual therapy and stretching exercises. Manual therapy is clinically proven to improve the range of motion especially during the frozen and thawing Stages. Additionally, Physiotherapists will be able to advise you on exercises to achieve good posture and activity modification to better manage your frozen shoulder.