Understanding Frozen Shoulder: Causes and Treatments

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Frozen shoulder, medically known as adhesive capsulitis, is characterised by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It’s a somewhat enigmatic condition that can greatly hinder one’s quality of life. In this article, we will delve into the causes and treatments of frozen shoulders, offering insights into how physiotherapy can provide relief and improve mobility.

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

The exact cause of frozen shoulder remains largely unclear. However, several risk factors have been identified. Some of the main contributors include:

  1. Age and Gender: The condition is most commonly observed in individuals between the age group of 40 and 60, with a higher incidence in women.
  2. Medical Conditions: Diabetes, thyroid disorders, and heart disease are known to increase the risk of developing frozen shoulder.
  3. Immobility: Extended periods of shoulder immobility due to surgery, fracture, or other medical conditions can lead to a frozen shoulder.

Stages of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder typically progresses through three stages, each with its own set of symptoms:

  1. Freezing Stage: Shoulder movement becomes painful, and the range of motion starts to become limited.
  2. Frozen Stage: Pain might decrease, but the stiffness worsens, severely restricting movement.
  3. Thawing Stage: Gradual improvement occurs; pain eases, and range of motion begins to return.

Treatment Options

  1. Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is often the first line of treatment for frozen shoulder. Techniques may include:

  • Joint Mobilisation: Gentle manipulation to improve joint movement.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Targeting shoulder and upper back muscles to improve support and mobility.
  • Stretching: To improve the range of motion.
  1. Medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers have been used to manage pain and inflammation. For more severe cases, corticosteroid injections may be administered.

  1. Heat and Cold Therapy

Warm compresses can relieve muscle tension, while cold compresses can help reduce inflammation.

  1. Surgical Intervention

In extreme cases that don’t respond to conservative treatments, surgical options like joint distension or manipulation under anaesthesia may be considered.

Role of Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in treating frozen shoulder by:

  • Customising Treatment Plans: Tailoring exercises and therapies to individual needs and conditions.
  • Improving Functionality: Aiming to restore optimal range of motion.
  • Pain Management: Using various modalities to manage and reduce pain effectively.
  • Educating: Offering advice on lifestyle changes and self-care routines that can accelerate healing and prevent recurrence.


Frozen shoulder can be debilitating, severely affecting your ability to perform everyday activities. However, there is a good chance of recovery with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment—often involving a multidisciplinary approach that includes physiotherapy. If you suspect you have a frozen shoulder, seek medical advice immediately for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your own individual needs.

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