What do you mean, my shoulder is frozen?

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterised by an initially painful, then progressively stiff shoulder, often with significant night pain. The

condition comes on slowly, has no known cause, and is more common in middle aged women.

I have moved this paragraph up: It is important to know that whilst many people will regain their mobility and function after a period of time, unfortunately, not everyone will, even with Physiotherapy or medical intervention.

It is the belief of many that there is nothing that can be done about frozen shoulders. They are quite often described as being a self-limiting condition and one that will resolve independently in its own time. The problem with the belief that there is nothing you can do about a frozen shoulder is that it may lead people to believe that they will make a full recovery with no intervention and therefore delay or not seek out treatment at all.

It is believed that this information has become such common knowledge to the public due to the frequent reference of what are called ‘secondary sources’ of information. In health care, primary sources of information predominantly refer to research journal articles that report original findings. Secondary sources are an interpretation of a primary source of information, which is less reliable.

So, if we’re mostly seeing information from these less reliable, secondary sources, what do the primary sources have to say about frozen shoulders and what can or cannot be done about them?

Primary sources suggest that treatments to improve shoulder mobility are most effective in the early stages (first 5-12 months), suggesting that delayed treatment may lead to poorer outcomes.

So, what treatment options do I have?

Physiotherapists will provide you with a home exercise program consisting of appropriate mobility and stretching exercises specific to your shoulder. Frozen shoulders are all unique, and you as an individual will have different goals and daily tasks that are meaningful to you so it is important that the program is tailored.

Cortisone injections are also often recommended to manage inflammation in the early stages of frozen shoulder, with the aim to reduce pain and the eventual formation of adhesions in your shoulder. Cortisone injections combined with a home exercise program have been shown to provide short-term pain relief and improved function compared with only exercises. It is therefore important to see your Physiotherapist and let them know how your home program is progressing and to see whether any medical intervention is required for further relief.

Your Physiotherapist can also give you advice and educate you on what a frozen shoulder is and how you can expect it to progress.

If you or someone you know has a shoulder concern, call us on 8555 4099 or click here to book an appointment online.


Meg Doyle, Physiotherapist