Frozen Shoulder Part 1. What is a frozen shoulder?

What can I do to heal a frozen shoulder?

Part 1. What is a frozen shoulder?

The hallmark of a “frozen shoulder” is being unable to move your arm more than a few degrees – either on your own or with the help of someone else. The pain of a frozen shoulder is intense. There is often pain at night, as well as pain in the daytime which may radiate down your arm (often the outside and/or front of your arm), and may radiate into your neck. A frozen shoulder makes everyday activities such as dressing and bathing very difficult and washing your hair will be impossible

Frozen shoulder is due to adhesions in the joint capsule; layers of tissue being “stuck” together so that they cannot glide over each other as they are supposed to. This is reflected in the medical term, which is adhesive capsulitis. It normally affects the non-dominant shoulder, but this is not invariably the case. It affects women more than men and develops most commonly in the 40-65 age group, and is commoner among diabetics and those with thyroid disease.

A frozen shoulder usually starts slowly and insidiously, but may come on rapidly perhaps after a fall. It will typically last from 18 months to three years. There are three stages as follows –

stage 1: is characterised by pain (freezing), lasting 2-9 months

stage 2: pain diminishes but restriction gets worse (frozen), lasting 4-12 months

stage 3: mobility starts to increase (thawing), lasting 5 months to many years

How can I be sure I have a frozen shoulder?

Diagnosing shoulder problems is full of pitfalls, but fortunately frozen shoulder is relatively easy to diagnose. An easy test to distinguish between frozen shoulder and other shoulder conditions is that you are unable to lift your arm beyond about 45-80 degrees. If you can lift your arm above 90 degrees then you almost certainly have a different shoulder condition, such as impingement syndrome or a rotator cuff tendinitis. With a frozen shoulder you may also experience a catching pain in the front of the arm (where the biceps tendon is).

Your doctor will examine your shoulder and test your range of movement and use this, in conjunction with your case history to make a diagnosis.

Is it safe to use it?

It is safer to use it than not to use it – immobilising your shoulder will simply make it worse. It is important to start moving it gently from the outset. However you may not be able to use it very much – lifting heavy objects is out, and you will find that many activities are impossible because of pain and restriction. But do what you can within the limitations of the shoulder movement.

In Part 2 we will look at treatment options – watch this space!


“It was the news that a frozen shoulder was likely to cause pain and inconvenience for about two years which pushed me into looking for alternative treatment (or, I should say, some treatment). Finding Sorrel on the internet proved to be the best thing that I could have done. Immediate reassurance that something could be done was followed up by sessions which resulted in slow but steady improvement and regained movement in a matter of months.”

Liz C, 63


Sorrel Pindar, Registered Osteopath

If you’re suffering from a frozen shoulder, give us a call, on 01234 409538 or you can email me: sorrel@oxalisosteopathy.co.uk


Categories: Osteopathy.