What’s freezing up your shoulder?

There are many types of shoulder conditions, but one in particular can creep up on you without you remembering having hurt it. This condition is called Adhesive Capsulitis, or more commonly known as Frozen Shoulder.

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

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Frozen shoulder is a condition where the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful, often with no known cause. It usually comes on gradually, worsens over time, and then eventually resolves.


There are 3 stages in the development of a frozen shoulder which can take up to 2 years or more to complete.

Stage 1 – Freezing stage: During this stage, the affected shoulder gradually becomes more painful and starts to lose mobility. This stage can last from 6 weeks to 9 months.

Stage 2 – Frozen stage: Shoulder pain and stiffness is significantly noticeable during this stage. Daily tasks can be difficult to perform, and sleep disturbance is common as the pain is worse at night. This stage can last from 4 to 9 months.

Stage 3 – Thawing stage: The shoulder is not usually painful during this stage. The stiffness decreases as the shoulder starts to “thaw” out. This stage usually last between 5 months and 2 years.

How do you get a Frozen Shoulder?

The cause of frozen shoulder is poorly understood. It is thought that the joint capsule, the lining around the shoulder joint, becomes inflamed in a frozen shoulder. This inflammation causes adhesions and scarring to form within the capsule, resulting in pain and movement restriction. There is also a lack of fluid in the joint, further reducing joint mobility.

Research indicates that sometimes a frozen shoulder can develop after a trauma or injury to the shoulder. However, in many cases, there is no known cause. Apart from trauma, some other risk factors have been linked to frozen shoulder, including:

  • Age and gender – frozen shoulder tends to affect people between the ages of 40 and 60 years old. It is also much more common in women than men
  • Diabetes – diabetic people are more likely to develop a frozen shoulder, as well as take longer to recover due to poor blood circulation
  • Other systemic diseases – heart disease and Parkinson’s disease are some examples of systemic diseases linked to developing a frozen shoulder.

How can I tell if I have a frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is usually diagnosed by signs and symptoms which are assessed by a docotr or physiotherapist. People who have a frozen shoulder often complain of:

  • Gradual worsening shoulder pain with no known cause
  • Aching pain on top of the shoulder and often shooting into the upper arm
  • Movement restriction without a loss of strength
  • Inability to sleep on the affected shoulder and sleep disturbance when rolling on to it
  • Difficulty with grooming and dressing as the condition progresses

A doctor or physiotherapist will also assess your movement and palpate the joint help confirm the diagnosis and rule out other shoulder conditions.

For treatment options of frozen shoulder, read our follow-up article on this topic, "Thawing Frozen Shoulders".

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  • http://www.exercisesforshoulderpain.com/ Shoulder Pain Exercises

    Some of friends told me to do the rotation exercise (rotating of shoulders) to prevent “frozen shoulder” Is it true that majority of places that does have winter season only affects in this kind of pain?

  • mitchdcba

    No offense, but if you have any kind of continuous pain, you should probably have it checked out. Really. If something is seriously hurting and you can't think why get it looked at…
    Shoulder Pain Treatment

  • Shanmugam_rajaus

    Basically I’m a Indian living in Singapore and I was suffering upper shoulder pain for some time so, I went to see orthopedic Doctorat singapore. As per Doctor advice i took shincort injection with celebrex tablet and im currently taking celebrex tablet.  can u pls advice on the side effect by taking shincort and celebrex tablet. can u recommend any treatment that help to solve shoulder pain.

  • Debbie

    I have frozen shoulder in my right side and now it is starting on my left…i have seem my rhumatologist and have been attending physical therapy twice a week for several months now. Noone can give me any idea as how or why it started and how/why is is stating on the left now…no known injury. I do have Fibomyalgia (diagnosed 4 years ago)…and my rhumatologist is convinced i have spindalitis even tho the test she has ran (2 years now) have not confirmed it….somtimes i just feel like i’m falling apart and the pain sometimes seems unbearable…I want to go get another opinion from another doctor but i’m not sure who?