Frozen Shoulder

What is it? (1)

Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is a disorder of unknown cause, in which the connective tissue, the capsule, surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and stiff. This inflammation and stiffness causes severe pain and movement restriction.

Symptoms (1, 2):

Frozen shoulder usually progress through 3 phases and symptoms may last anywhere from a few months to a couple years. The first phase is the “freezing phase,” which is characterized by progressive pain from inflammation of the capsule, and the development of limited range of motion. Pain is usually felt in the front and side of the shoulder, and initially, is often worse at nighttime and when the shoulder is taken close to its end ranges of motion.(2) The pain usually progresses to constant pain at rest, may be felt further down the arm and becomes aggravated by things such as movement, weather changes, cold, vibration and stress through out the next stage.(1) In the middle phase, called the “frozen phase,” the shoulder has very limited range of motion and has a very rigid feel. Lastly, is the “thawing phase,” in which slow improvements in range of motion and pain can occur.

The movements that are most restricted are external rotation and abduction, which are movements that are used in activities such as combing ones hair and reaching for the seatbelt in a car. As well, extension of the shoulder and internal rotation can be restricted. These movements are used in activities such as reaching into your back pocket or putting your belt through the back loop on your pants.

Who is most at risk (2)?

  • Those who are female
  • Those who are over the age of 40
  • Those who have diabetes
  • Those who have thyroid disease
  • Those who have hypertriglyceridemia
  • Those who have had trauma to the shoulder
  • Those who have prolonged shoulder immobilization

What happens if you don’t treat it?

You put yourself at risk of developing chronic shoulder pain and severely limited range of motion, which could interfere with your activities of daily living. You also run the risk of prolonging the progression through the 3 phases and increasing the amount of time you are in pain.

What can you do about it?

See a STRIDE physical therapist! We’ll do a comprehensive assessment to come to the proper diagnosis and rule out any other issue. Treatment will likely include pain management strategies, gradually restoring proper movements of the joint, gradually restoring range of motion, and progressing to strengthening the muscles of the shoulder complex.(3)

Think you might have a frozen shoulder? Call us at 306.778.7770 or book online (click the green “Book Online” button on our website’s main page) to get started on your recovery today!


1. Roy, A. (2014) Adhesive capsulitis in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Retrieved: April 25, 2016 from:

2. Malik S, Pirotte A (2014). Shoulder. In Sherman S.C. (Eds), Simon’s Emergency Orthopedics, 7e. Retrieved April 25, 2016 from

3. Myers J.B., Rucinski T, Prentice W.E., Schneider R (2013). Rehabilitation of Shoulder Injuries. In Hoogenboom B.J., Voight M.L., Prentice W.E. (Eds), Musculoskeletal Interventions: Techniques for Therapeutic Exercise, Third Edition. Retrieved April 25, 2016 from