Frozen shoulder 

Frozen Shoulder is also referred to as Adhesive Capsulitis or Contracture of the Shoulder. It is a progressive worsening of the shoulder which can last up to 18 months and is often very painful and leads to a severe loss of movement.

An introduction to frozen shoulder:

People often notice this in every day life, for example reaching behind for bra Strap or opening a car door, reaching for something on a shelf.

This occurs because the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint becomes thickened and inflamed; however there are many theories as to why this occurs.

There are certain things that may increase your chances of developing a Frozen shoulder which include; Recent shoulder surgery, recent trauma or injury to the shoulder, Diabetes, Dupytren’s contracture (noticed by contracture of the hand), heart disease and stroke.

Frozen shoulder is more common in women than in men and around 1 in 20 will experience a Frozen shoulder. It is more common in the age range 40-60 Year olds.

What happens in frozen shoulder?

There are 3 distinct phases to a frozen shoulder

1: Freezing Phase

Normally the most painful, in this phase you will notice the biggest loss of movement too.

2: Frozen Phase

This phase is not normally that painful, however your arm will be incredibly stiff and hard to move.

3: Thawing Phase

This phase may actually cause an increase in pain, but you will also notice a return to normal range of motion

How to treat frozen shoulder

You may be able to look after your own recovery and the majority of people will be okay within 18 months.

  • Ice and then heat or a combination of the 2 can be beneficial. Follow the rule of 10 minutes on 10 minutes off, or on for no longer than 20 minutes in one sitting. Aim to wrap the ice/ bag of frozen peas in a damp tea towel. If you can tolerate it you may want to compress the ice/heat pack using cling film, however check the skin to avoid irritation/ burns around the site of injury.

  • Medication- Always check with a Pharmacist/ GP about what you can and cannot take safely, always follow the instructions on the packet. As a rule Ibuprofen (anti- inflammatory) is generally more effective at night and first thing in the morning to reduce the swelling. Paracetamol is used to reduce the pain. You may also wish to try Ibuprofen gels etc.

  • Your GP may prescribe stronger medication, or advise a Steroid injection to ease the pain. Your GP may recommend that you see a physiotherapist for Physiotherapy or to give you the injection.

  • Physiotherapy, can be very beneficial and speed up recovery in the Freezing and the Thawing stages of a Frozen shoulder. You may also wish to see a Physiotherapist to identify the problem. The Physiotherapist may use mobilisations, massage and manipulations. They may use taping techniques to help to support your shoulder in a good position. They would also identify appropriate exercises to strengthen and stretch muscles, create coping strategies and highlight useful ergonomic aids. Some Physiotherapists may also be able to look at your work station set up and make appropriate recommendations or changes.


Frozen shoulder exercises, click on the icons below to open examples of exercises.

How to stretch a frozen shoulder