What is a frozen shoulder – and how is it treated?

Spread the love

What  is a frozen shoulder – and how is it treated? Physiotherapist at the Waldegrave Clinic, Jacky Balfour explains:

Shoulder PainFrozen shoulder is the common name for Adhesive Capsulitis. This is a condition where the shoulder becomes very stiff and painful, usually with no history of injury or other obvious causative factor. The capsule that encloses the shoulder joint becomes inflamed, thickened and tight. The exact cause is not fully understood.

Who typically suffers with a frozen shoulder?

A frozen shoulder is a common condition and is more common in women between the ages of 40 and 60. People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop a frozen shoulder, and they can also occur after shoulder injury or surgery which is why it is so important to try and keep the shoulder moving as soon as possible following injury or surgery.

Typical symptoms of frozen shoulder

People suffering from a frozen shoulder present with shoulder and upper arm pain, and increasing stiffness of the shoulder in all movements. They may complain of difficulty with everyday tasks such as dressing:- doing up a bra or putting on a jacket, brushing hair, reaching for a seatbelt or reaching up to a high cupboard. They often have pain at night and find that they are unable to sleep on the affected side.

The symptoms progress gradually and the whole process may take 18-24 months. The pain usually settles with time but the stiffness may persist.

Treatment for frozen shoulder

Physiotherapy can help to maintain the range of movement at the shoulder using stretches and exercises. Painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are often prescribed.

Other treatments can include cortisone injections and a procedure known as ‘hydro-dilatation’ where fluid is pumped into the shoulder joint  to stretch the capsule. It is important to have physiotherapy treatment after this to maintain mobility and re-gain strength.

There are many other conditions that can affect the shoulder but the marked stiffness combined with pain is usually the hallmark of a frozen shoulder.

If you are suffering from shoulder pain and think that you may have a frozen shoulder the Physiotherapy team at the Waldegrave Clinic on 020 8943 2424 would be happy to help you.



  • By Physiotherapist Tracey DiMatteo The answer is yes. And bad posture is affecting more and more people at all stages of life. Posture can be defined as a state of…
  • By Physiotherapist Jacky Balfour If you have children who play sport they may from time to time complain of aches and pains - or with kids just being kids -…
  • Often when a patient arrives at the clinic in pain, they fear that they have trapped a nerve. However, did you know that it’s extremely rare to truly trap a…
  • By Physiotherapist Jacky Balfour Knee pain is common. The wear and tear of daily life can take its toll. And if you play sport, then injury can be a contributor.…
  • By Physiotherapist Tracey DiMatteo When you are suffering with neck or shoulder pain, often, changes to the way you typically do things, or simple exercises can help. If neck or…