A Look at the Causes, Stages and Treatment of a Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder can cause severe pain, loss of function and eventually loss of movement from stiffness. Let’s take a look at the different stages, causes, issues and treatments.

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is often mistaken for a rotator cuff injury during the early phases. However, adhesive capsulitis has a much more distinct pattern of symptoms including severe shoulder pain, loss of function and eventually loss of movement from stiffness.

frozen shoulder

Cause of Frozen Shoulder

The cause of frozen shoulder is unknown. Research is still unclear as to why frozen shoulder starts and why it progresses the way it does. What we do know about frozen shoulder is that the joint capsule shrinks which leads to pain and reduced movement. The capsule is the deepest layer of tissue around the shoulder and its role is to stabilise the humerus in the ball and socket joint of the shoulder.

It is more likely to occur in people who are 35-50 years of age. It can appear by itself or be associated with an underlying illness or injury. People who have sustained a shoulder trauma, shoulder surgery or inflammatory conditions can be more likely to suffer from frozen shoulder. Also prolonged periods of inactivity including the use of a sling can also be a cause.

Stages of Frozen Shoulder

There are three phases of frozen shoulder. Each stage can vary in length of time however, it is estimated that each stage can last up to 8 months each if left untreated. The stages are:

Freezing – Pain and reduce range of movement.

Frozen – Minimal pain with no further loss of movement.

Thawing – Gradual return of movement, weakness evident from lack of use.

Common Issues

Most people suffering from a frozen should are unable to:

• Reach above shoulder height

• Reach behind your back e.g. bra

• To sleep on your side

• Reach out to your side and behind e.g for a seat belt

Treatment for Frozen Shoulder

An evaluation by a hand therapist can help determine what therapy may be required for people with frozen shoulders.

If you have any questions about treating a frozen shoulder, or would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch here.