What is frozen shoulder?

Inflammation of the shoulder (glenohumeral joint) and capsule resulting in greatly reduced range of motion of the arm.


Unclear and sometimes completely spontaneous and unknown.
Some conditions have been linked with the development of adhesive capsulitis and include:

  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Inflammation of the tendon of the bicep muscle
  • Arthritic conditions
  • Shoulder trauma and surgery
  • Overuse of shoulder
  • Bursitis around the shoulder
  • Other systemic conditions such as type 2 diabetes

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain with movement – especially elevating arm to the side and turning the arm/hand outwards – difficulty getting dressed, doing hair etc
  • Greatly restricted range of motion of the shoulder and arm
  • Can be painful to sleep on.
  • Pain and stiffness can spread to the upper back and neck region also.

What is the best management and treatment?

  • See your Osteopath to have a proper examination and diagnosis of the pain. There are many causes of pain around the shoulder. The correct condition and cause must be identified in order to treat it correctly.
    Incorrect diagnosis and doing the wrong stretches for example can cause further irritation
  • Patients will want to rest the arm and not move the joint, but unfortunately this only makes the condition worse. Your Osteopath will give you instructions on how to safely care for the injury and how to do rehabilitation exercises at every stage of the healing through to complete recovery and help to prevent re-occurrence.
  • Moving and stretching your arm yourself can be difficult, painful and cause more problems if done incorrectly. Your Osteopath will probably apply gentle techniques to muscles in the shoulder and surrounding areas that are associated with and or contributing to the problem to gently start getting the joint to move again without pain.
  • Your Osteopath will help to identify irritating activities in your day-to-day activities and show you safe ways to use your arm.
  • Your Osteopath may suggest changes to your training if this has been the cause or the way you do daily activities that have contributed to the problem.
  • Take further measures to reduce inflammation ice or an anti-inflammatory which should only be taken under direction and supervision of a healthcare professional.
  • Extreme and unresponsive cases will need referral for specialist opinion.

What not to do

  • Do not apply heat to the region without being examined first.
  • Do not self prescribe exercises or stretches as these may irritate the problem.
  • Do not apply deep heat creams or massage yourself.
  • Do not attempt to continue with the activities that cause pain.

How long will it take to get better?

  • This is very hard to answer with frozen shoulders as there is such a variance, but generally they are an injury that takes a long time to return to complete pain free full range of movement.
  • The Osteopath will likely give you and idea of how long they think it might take to improve
  • You need to be patient with this injury and committed to doing rehabilitation in order to see results
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