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What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen Shoulder or Adhesive Capsulitis is a common diagnosis we see patients present with, but frequently patients are unsure of where it came from or what it is. Frozen Shoulder can come on slowly or suddenly, with or without injury. Unfortunately, Frozen Shoulder can be quite painful, which then limits how much the person uses the arm, it becomes more “frozen”, the pain gets worse, so on and so forth.





Depending on whether or not there’s an underlying injury, the location of the pain can really vary from the back to the front or side of the shoulder; pain may radiate down to the elbow. There are three distinct phases, that may occur over a period of time from one to three years: 


  • Freezing: pain is intense, movement becomes stiff → motion decreases

  • Frozen: pain may being to improve, stiffness worsens → motion becomes more and more limited

  • Thawing: pain and stiffness begin to improve


Anatomically, with a Frozen Shoulder, the capsule of ligaments that surrounds the ball- and-socket shoulder joint becomes thick and forms adhesions (scar tissue) that create an accordion-like texture. It is this thickening that prevents the shoulder from moving above shoulder height comfortably or smoothly. 




We do know that there are certain factors that contribute to one’s likelihood to develop a Frozen Shoulder:


  • Female

  • Middle age

  • Overweight 

  • Smoking

  • Insulin resistance or Diabetes


Although some of these factors are impossible to change, it’s important to modify what risk factors you can. If you develop shoulder pain and stiffness, especially if you fall into one or more of the above listed categories, give us a call. If you do have a Frozen Shoulder, the sooner you are seen for physical therapy to improve upon your range of motion (and prevent further loss of range of motion), and decrease your pain, the better. 


In physical therapy, we will focus primarily on normalizing your range of motion, but also on strengthening, posture, and pain control. If necessary, we can refer you to the appropriate specialist as sometimes an injection can help to alleviate pain; surgery for Frozen Shoulder is not typically indicated. Stay well, don’t forget to stretch, and make time for yourself to be active. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at BHPT. We’re here for you.


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