What Is Frozen Shoulder?

frozen shoulder

Referred to in medical terms as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder, limiting mobility.  The condition is generally slow to manifest.  Over time, the pain and stiffness become worse.  But the good news is that frozen shoulder tends to resolve in 12-18 months.

Let’s look at frozen shoulder, what causes it and how to manage it.


With frozen shoulder, symptoms come in stages, following the progression outlined below.

  • Range of motion is limited. There’s pain when the shoulder is moved or engaged.
  • At this stage, the shoulder becomes more stiff and difficult to move, but pain is reduced.
  • The final stage is a reduction in symptoms. Range of motion returns.

Each of the stages of frozen shoulder lasts for several months and then, almost magically, the condition usually runs its course.  Recurrence in the same shoulder is very rare, but sometimes it can manifest in the opposite shoulder.

The whys

Frozen shoulder is something of a mystery to the medical community.  What’s known is that diabetics are more likely to develop it.  Also, those who’ve temporarily lost the use of their arm due to surgery or injury are more likely to develop the condition.

All the components of your shoulder are covered with a coating which consists of connective tissue.  When the connective tissue in your shoulder becomes thick, it tightens, which limits its ability to move.

Women are more prone to frozen shoulder than men are, as well as people over the age of 40.  But surgery or injury which has compelled the implicated arm to be immobilized can also cause frozen shoulder.

Together with diabetes, systemic illnesses like hyper or hypothyroidism can provoke the condition, as well as tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease.

You can reduce the risk of developing frozen shoulder (especially in the wake of an injury or surgery), by following a regime of flexibility and strengthening exercises.  Despite the fact we’re unsure as to why it happens, we do know that maintaining range of motion and strength are key ways to avoid developing frozen shoulder.


As I pointed out at the beginning of this post, most cases of frozen shoulder are resolved in between 12 and 18 months.  When that doesn’t happen, seeking recommendations about therapeutic responses is advised.

Physical therapy is one discipline that can resolve the issue.  The manipulation of the shoulder under a local anesthetic can serve to loosen the connective tissue, relieving pain and restoring function over time.

Alternative therapies include acupuncture and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), which have seen good results treating patients with frozen shoulder.

It’s very rare that frozen shoulder indicates a surgical intervention.

Back & Body Medical

If you’re dealing with a frozen shoulder which has persisted for longer than 18 months, we suggest that you seek out the diversified services at our award-winning clinic in Manhattan.

Here, you’ll find chiropractic, sports medicine, physical therapy and acupuncture, which can be applied individually or in concert to address the condition.

Contact us for a consultation.

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