What is Frozen Shoulder? – Emily Georgopolous

 In Upper Limb

Frozen Shoulder

Shoulder pain can be caused by many different structures or reasons. One that is not very well understood is frozen shoulder. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, research has been unable to decipher the cause of frozen shoulder.  

Signs and symptoms of Frozen Shoulder include:

  • Restriction in movement of your shoulder in all directions
  • Whether actively moving your shoulder, or relaxing and allowing the doctor or physiotherapist to assess your shoulder, the range of motion will remain the same
  • Night pain
  • Inability to lay or sleep on the painful shoulder
  • Shoulder pain that is aggravated by movement

Factors that increase your risk of frozen shoulder include:

  • age over 40 years,
  • female gender
  • sedentary occupation
  • recent shoulder injury
  • diabetes mellitus
  • thyroid disease
  • genetics
  • or sometimes it  just happens!


What we do know is that frozen shoulder has three stages:


This is the first phase of frozen shoulder. This is when your shoulder will be most painful and there will be restriction in moving your arm forward, out to the side, rotating outwards and placing the hand behind your back. The time period for this stage varies from 3 – 9 months.



The “frozen” stage lasts from 9 – 15 months. During this stage there is less pain in your shoulder, with most of the pain being felt at the end of range of movements. During this time is when you will be most restricted with your range of motion.



From 15 – 24 months, pain will minimise. Gradually, improvements in range of motion will be gained.


Although time is the biggest factor in recovering from frozen shoulder, physiotherapy can be useful to

          relieve tension in the neck and shoulders

          give you exercises to maintain movement and strength in your arm

          activity modification tips to help you be able to perform day to day tasks

Emily Georgopolous 

M. Physiotherapy / B. Exercise Science

POGO Physio Associate 


Walmsley S, Rivett DA, Osmotherly PG. Adhesive capsulitis: establishing consensus on clinical identifiers for stage 1 using the DELPHI technique. Phys Ther. 2009;89(9):906-917. (R) 

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