Frozen Shoulder Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Our shoulders are the most used joints in our body. Often they are prone to various conditions that impair the movement of the shoulder. Adhesive capsulitis is one such condition that is commonly known as frozen shoulder. It is a common shoulder disorder that causes intense pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. If you fail to treat your condition properly, it can become severe and debilitating over time. Women are more vulnerable to this condition compared to men, and it mostly affects people between the ages of 40 and 60.

However, under the supervision of a physiotherapist and shoulder surgeon, it is possible to treat milder conditions of frozen shoulder with proper physiotherapy. But in severe cases, advanced keyhole surgery or arthroscopic surgery can be used to treat this problem.

Persistent pain and stiffness are the two most common symptoms of a frozen shoulder joint. However, they gradually develop and may resolve on their own.

The symptoms of a frozen shoulder are accompanied by three phases. They are:

Freezing: Pain gradually becomes more severe until the shoulder movement is restricted. Pain may be more severe at night. Pain may last for six weeks to nine months.

Frozen: The pain might decrease in this stage, and the shoulder remains firm. But the movement of the shoulder joint is restricted. This stage may last around 4 to 6 months.

Thawing: Movement gets more comfortable and may soon become normal. Sometimes the pain will recur, but eventually, it will fade out. It can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to become normal completely.

Simple exercises and pain management help 90% of people improve their symptoms. But it can take up to two to three years for a frozen shoulder to heal.

Causes and risk factors of frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder is believed to occur due to the formation of scar tissue in the shoulder. As a result, the shoulder joint capsule thickens and tightens, making it harder to move. Moving the shoulder becomes painful and stiff. 

There is no definitive cause for frozen shoulder, and in fact, the exact cause isn’t always known. However, there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing a frozen shoulder.

Age – People of age 40 and above are at an increased risk of frozen shoulder. 

Gender – The majority of people suffering from frozen shoulders are women. 70% of frozen shoulder sufferers are female.

Diabetes – Approximately 10% to 20% of people with diabetes can be affected by the frozen shoulder, and they may also experience more severe symptoms. However, there are no known causes for it.

Other conditions – hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, stroke, tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease, and Parkinson’s disease can also lead to frozen shoulder.

Immobilization – a frozen shoulder can also occur as a result of prolonged immobilization of the shoulder. Possible reasons for shoulder joint immobilization are a fractured arm, damage to the rotator cuff, a stroke, or post-operative recovery.


The goal of treatment is to relieve pain, keep the shoulder flexible and mobile. Nine out of ten patients achieve relief with treatment over time.

The recovery process is slow, and symptoms also last a long time. There are several pain-relieving methods and ways to treat the condition.

Painkillers – NSAID drugs like ibuprofen may be used to reduce inflammation and relieve mild pain.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is another recommended painkiller that can be used for a longer period of time. It is not possible for one kind of painkiller to be used by everyone, so you should discuss the options with your doctor.

Hot or cold compression packs – these techniques will help to reduce swelling and pain. Alternating between hot and cold packs may be more effective.  

Corticosteroid injections – these injections can provide temporary relief from pain and swelling. However, taking corticosteroid injections repeatedly is not suggested due to their side effects, which may result in further damage to the shoulder.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This technique blocks the nerve endings in the spinal cord that are responsible for the sensation of pain. The procedure involves sending electrical signals by a machine applied directly to the affected shoulder area.

Physical therapy – This involves training in certain exercises by a physiotherapist. This therapy aims to improve and maintain your shoulder mobility and flexibility as much as possible without causing excessive pain or strain.

Shoulder manipulation – This technique involves adjusting the shoulder joint gently after giving general anaesthesia to the patient.

Shoulder arthroscopy – A minimally invasive surgical procedure that is performed in a limited number of cases. This technique involves inserting a small endoscope into the shoulder joint by making a small incision to get rid of any adhesions or scar tissue.

Depending on the severity of the signs and symptoms, the doctor will suggest an appropriate course of treatment for the patient. For more details about frozen shoulder treatment, contact Dr. Ajay Tiwari, one of the best orthopedic shoulder specialists in Hyderabad.


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