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Things We All Need to Know About Frozen Shoulder

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

Adhesive capsulitis, also known as Frozen shoulder is a painful inflammatory condition that restricts the mobility of the shoulder joint and becomes thickened, inflamed, and stiff. Learn about its symptoms, causes, and treatments to find relief.

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Stuck in Pain? Thaw Out Your Frozen Shoulder with Our Expert Care.

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Don't settle for one-size-fits-all health advice. Connect with our Dietitian and Osteopath for personalised and effective treatment options.

This blog includes the following:

  • Who Is At Risk For Developing A Frozen Shoulder?

  • What Are Early Signs of a Frozen Shoulder?

  • How Do You Fix A Frozen Shoulder?

  • Can Frozen Shoulder Recur After Rehabilitation?

Many suffer from this painful condition which can cause impairment when not treated immediately. A frozen shoulder is the result of increased fibrosis within the joint capsule, leading to the connective tissues to undergo contracture and limit range of motion in all directions..

Need treatment for frozen shoulders? See our Osteopath

Who Is At Risk For Developing A Frozen Shoulder?

According to a study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, frozen shoulder affects approximately 2-5% of the population and is reported to be seen in four times more females than males. People presenting with a frozen shoulder are typically 40-60 years old and may have a history of stroke, diabetes, or a previous shoulder injury.

In addition, people with Parkinson's disease, and an overactive/underactive thyroid gland, commonly known as hypothyroidism, are at risk for a frozen shoulder.

An image of woman's neck with visible hypothyroidism
Some thyroid conditions, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) caused by autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's thyroiditis, are chronic and require lifelong management with thyroid hormone replacement therapy. While the condition cannot be fully reversed, effective treatment can help restore normal thyroid function and alleviate symptoms.

Female athletes who played tennis and volleyball and participated in weight training with overworked arms may be at risk of experiencing shoulder pain.

An image of a volley ball player catching the ball
Playing volleyball involves repetitive overhead arm movements such as spiking, blocking, and serving. These movements can cause strain and stress on the shoulder joint, especially if proper technique and form are not maintained. Over time, this can lead to a condition known as "volleyball shoulder," which includes a range of shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tears, labral tears, and frozen shoulder.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, consult with our Osteopath to assess if you are suffering from a frozen shoulder.

What Are Early Signs Of Frozen Shoulder?

There are 3 significant stages of a frozen shoulder:

Freezing Phase

An image of woman laying in bed suffering from frozen shoulder, holding her shoulder
Frozen shoulder pain at night is a common symptom that can interfere with sleep and quality of life. The pain may be caused by inflammation and stiffness in the shoulder joint and surrounding tissues, which can be aggravated by lying in certain positions or by movement during sleep.

During the freezing phase, there is recorded pain in the span of a few weeks during activity. You can feel stiffness and pain when moving the affected shoulder when you are suffering from the early stages of a frozen shoulder. You may notice that your pain and stiffness are worse at night and begin to limit shoulder movement, particularly above the head. This stage can last several months.

Frozen Phase

An image of woman sitting in front of her working table, unable to continue typing in her laptop
During this phase, the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint may thicken and contract, causing adhesions to form. These adhesions restrict the shoulder's range of motion and make it difficult to perform everyday activities such as reaching or lifting objects.

The second stage follows the freezing stage. During this phase, pain may lessen, but the stiffness of the shoulder joint persists, leading to limited mobility and difficulty carrying out daily physical activities. This phase can last up to 6 months, however the duration may vary for each individual. It is important to seek medical advice from a health professional to manage the symptoms and prevent further complications.

Get in touch with our Osteopath today for a shoulder assessment.

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Need treatment? See our Osteopath..

Thawing or Recovery Phase

In this phase, frozen shoulders have less pain, and the thawing stage has improved. It typically takes 6 months to 2 years to heal and return to normal.

An image of shoulder being checked using a device
In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans may be ordered to evaluate the extent of damage or inflammation in the shoulder joint.

How Do You Fix A Frozen Shoulder?

The treatment of a frozen shoulder typically involves non-surgical interventions such as Osteopathy treatment, medication, and sometimes corticosteroid injections. In most cases, the condition resolves within one to three years, but treatment can help manage pain and improve the range of motion.

Our Osteopath at ‘One Motion Athletic’ has a variety of techniques to help treat frozen shoulders, depending on the severity and stage of the condition. During the early stages of a frozen shoulder, gentle mobilisation techniques may be used to maintain movement in the shoulder joint and prevent further stiffness.

As the condition progresses, more intensive techniques such as soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, and stretching exercises may be used to increase the range of motion and alleviate pain.

Additional treatment techniques such as dry needling or cupping therapy can improve blood flow to the affected area and promote healing.

Dr. Daniel Mogoai performing cupping therapy in a patient
Cupping therapy is an alternative therapy that involves placing cups on the skin to create a vacuum or suction effect. It is often used for pain relief and muscle tension, and may be used as a treatment for shoulder pain and stiffness associated with frozen shoulder.

Overall, our Osteopath will ensure you receive a personalised treatment plan to help manage the symptoms of a frozen shoulder and improve shoulder function.

Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with frozen shoulders. Doctors may recommend corticosteroid injections into the joint to reduce inflammation and pain.

If non-surgical treatment does not provide relief, surgical options may be considered. Arthroscopic surgery, which involves making small incisions and using a camera and surgical tools to repair the joint, may be an option for some patients.

It is important to note that treatment for a frozen shoulder should be tailored to each individual's unique situation and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

Book an appointment with our Osteopath and take control of your shoulder pain!

Can Frozen Shoulder Recur After Rehabilitation?

A Frozen shoulder can recur after it has undergone rehabilitation. However, taking steps to prevent its onset and recurrence can help reduce the risk. Here are some tips on how to prevent a frozen shoulder:

Regular exercise: Gentle stretching and range of motion exercises can help keep the shoulder joint flexible and prevent the development of frozen shoulders. It's essential to maintain shoulder mobility during daily activities.

A sample GIF of frozen shoulder exercise, using one hand gliding up in the wall
To do this exercise for frozen shoulder, start by standing facing a wall about 1 to 2 feet away, depending on your shoulder's mobility. Place the hand of your frozen shoulder arm on the wall at chest height, with your elbow bent. Next, slowly slide your hand up the wall, straightening your elbow as you reach higher. Stop when you feel a stretch in your shoulder, being careful not to push yourself to the point of pain. Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds, then relax. Repeat the exercise three to five times. If you find that you can't move your arm very high up the wall, try standing farther away from the wall to start the exercise. If you can easily extend your elbow and reach your arm to a fully extended position, you can stand closer to the wall. Remember to listen to your body and work within your limits to avoid exacerbating your pain. COURTESY LAURA WILLIAMS, M.S.ED., ACSM EP-C

Avoiding shoulder strain: Follow a tailored strength training program to avoid repetitive overhead motions and progressively increase load.

Proper posture: Maintaining proper posture and mobility through the spine can help reduce the risk of developing shoulder and neck strain that may contribute to risk of a frozen shoulder.

Balanced nutrition: Proper nutrition can help maintain healthy bones and muscles essential for shoulder health. Consuming foods rich in vitamin D, calcium, and protein can help promote bone health. An adequate amount of intake of these nutrients is recommended for overall bone and muscle health.

The recommended daily intake of calcium for adults is 1,000-1,200 mg, while the recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 600-800 IU for adults under 70 and 800-1,000 IU for adults over 70.

Book an appointment with our accredited Sports Dietitian for personalised nutrition coaching.

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All listed treatments above and things to avoid are only preventive measures for frozen shoulders and general advice.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain and are concerned you may have a frozen shoulder, please seek medical advice from a health practitioner or book an appointment with our Osteopath at One Motion Athletic.


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