Hands up who’d like to hear some information about Frozen Shoulder…!  Not able to put your hands up….? Then this blog is for you!!

Frozen shoulder, (also known as adhesive capsulitis) is a condition that causes restriction of movement in the shoulder joint. The cause of a frozen shoulder is not well understood, but it can occur after a traumatic injury to the neck, shoulder or arm.  A person’s natural reaction is to ‘hold’ the shoulder after injury, to stop it moving as it causes pain.  This is what leads to the reduction in movement including stiffness and pain.   Symptoms can begin suddenly or can build up over time.

I have often treated patients who “woke up” with intense pain in the shoulder and couldn’t perform everyday actions like, washing hair, turning the steering wheel in the car, holding up the news-paper or simply scratching their back!


What happens with a frozen shoulder?

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint.  Surrounding this ball-and-socket joint is a capsule of tissue.  This includes synovial-fluid, which lubricates the area between the head of the arm bone (humerus) and the socket of the shoulder blade (glenoid fossa).

Normally, the shoulder joint allows more motion than any other joint in the body. Scar tissue forms and the synovial fluid in the joint becomes ‘sticky’ causing the joint to stiffen or stop moving altogether.  This is where the pain kicks in!  Pain will be sharp, shooting and at times, the shoulder can be unbearable to lay on while trying to sleep.

Contributing factors of frozen shoulder?

Shoulder Trauma or Surgery
Patients who sustain a shoulder injury, or undergo surgery on the shoulder can develop a frozen shoulder joint. When injury or surgery is followed by prolonged joint immobilization, the risk of developing a frozen shoulder is highest.

Age & Gender
Frozen shoulder most commonly affects patients between the ages of 40 to 60 years old, and it is twice as common in women than in men.

Other Systemic Conditions
Several systemic conditions such as heart disease and Parkinson’s disease have also been associated with an increased risk for developing a frozen shoulder.  Also it is seen in patients with Diabetes.


Physical Therapy – to regain movement, loosen up scar tissue and reduce pain.

Pain killers or Anti-Inflammatories – to help the patient cope with the pain of the initial injury while being treated.

Injections – This can reduce pain quickly but may not remedy the underlying problem.

Surgery – Some cases, which cannot be treated with Physio may in the end need surgery.  Surgery can be great for both pain relief and restoring movement, although intensive physiotherapy is essential after the surgery. This involves a manipulation of the shoulder under anaesthetic for most cases. Some people may require surgical release of the tight shoulder capsule performed with keyhole surgery.  But it is advised that you try Physical Therapy initially as most cases can be remedied.  It can be a long process for some depending on the severity of the injury, but some improvement will be seen after each treatment.

Remember… if the pain is lasting longer than a few days it’s the body’s way of telling you treatment is required.  In the case of frozen shoulder, the longer it is left untreated, the longer it will take to fix!

Take Care and Stay well!

Lorraine Blackshields Phys L.C.S.P. (IIPT)