Frozen Shoulder pain

What is a Frozen Shoulder? How Can You Treat It?

In our day to day life there is a lot of movement occurring at the shoulder. The shoulder, also known as the glenohumeral joint, is one of the most mobile joints in the human body. However, when the shoulder is "frozen", the joint gets stuck and its movement becomes limited. The resulting disability of a frozen shoulder can be serious, and the condition tends to get worse with time if it's not treated.

But what exactly is a frozen shoulder? What causes it? How do you treat it? In this post, we will provide an answer to all of these questions. 

AdobeStock_380584234What is A Frozen Shoulder? 

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, results from excessive scar tissue or adhesions across the glenohumeral joint capsule. It can lead to stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

A frozen shoulder usually begins with an injury or inflammation of the soft tissues. Inflammation can cause pain that is aggravated with movement. The condition is referred to as a “frozen” shoulder because the more pain that is felt, the less likely the shoulder will be used.

Moreover, the lack of use causes the joint capsule at the shoulder to thicken and tighten, making the shoulder even more difficult to move.

A frozen shoulder usually develops slowly and in three stages. Each stage can last a few months.AdobeStock_396971830

  1. Freezing stage

    • Any movement of your shoulder causes pain. As the pain worsens, your shoulder loses range of motion. Freezing typically lasts from 6 weeks to 9 months.
  2. Frozen stage

    • Pain may begin to diminish during this stage but stiffness remains and using it becomes more difficult. During the 4 to 6 months of this stage, daily activities may be very difficult.
  3. Thawing stage

    • The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve. Complete return to normal or close to normal strength and motion typically takes from 6 months to 3 years.

What are the Risk Factors? 

Some risk factors for a frozen shoulder include: 

  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Ages 40 to 60
  • Women more than men
  • If you had previous surgery on shoulder, breast, or cervical spine
  • If you are recovering from a medical condition that prevents you from moving your arm such as a stroke or a mastectomy

Why Is It Important?Frozen shoulder pain

After a period of worsening symptoms, a frozen shoulder tends to get better. You can leave a frozen shoulder untreated but the stiffness and limited range of motion will continue to exist. Although pain may get better over time, you will still experience some pain time to time. 

As you use your shoulder for numerous activities, stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion is not something you want to deal with for a prolonged period of time. This is why it is important to recognize the issue and take actions for recovery!

What Should I Do If I Have a Frozen Shoulder? How Is It Treated?

There are multiple ways for you to treat a frozen shoulder however, seeing a physiotherapist and going through physical therapy is one of the most common treatments. 

What Does a Physiotherapist Do? How Can They Help? 

A physiotherapist will first conduct a physical exam. They will assess your shoulder’s range of motion and general shoulder movements with your arm. Additional tests and x-rays may also be done to rule out other possible problems.  

After doing a physical exam and having a better understanding of your condition, a physiotherapist can come up with a treatment plan specific to your needs.

Typically the treatment will first focus on exercises that stretch the joint capsule and to regain the lost motion. Then gradually you will progress on to strengthening exercises.

A physiotherapist can show you how far to push yourself and can teach you the appropriate exercises. Once you've learned your limitations, you can practice most of your exercises on your own at home.

What are Some Exercises I Can Do for a Frozen Shoulder?

These are a few exercises that you can do on your own at home!

  1. Pendulum Stretch 

    Relax your shoulders. Stand and lean over slightly, allowing the affected arm to hang down. Start by swinging the arm in a small circle. You can increase your swing as your condition improves. As you progress, you can hold a light weight in the swinging arm. 
    Do 10 reps x 1 set in each direction once a day.
  2. Cross Body Stretch 

    You can do this stretch either sitting or standing up. Use your good arm to lift and bring your affected arm across your body at the elbow. Put gentle pressure to stretch the shoulder.
    Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and do this 10 to 20 times per day.
  3. External Shoulder Rotation Exercise

    Hold an exercise band between your hands and bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle close to your sides. Rotate the lower part of the arm outward and hold for five seconds.
    Do 10-15 reps for each arm once a day. 
  4. Internal Shoulder Rotation Exercise

    Stand next to a door and hook one end of an exercise band around the doorknob. Hold the other end with your hand with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Pull the band toward your body and hold for five seconds.
    Do 10-15 reps for each arm once a day. 
  5. Towel Stretch

    Hold one end of a towel behind your back and grab the opposite end with your other hand. Use your good arm to pull the affected arm upward to stretch it. If this feels easy, you can drape the towel over your good shoulder to do this stretch.
    Do 10 to 20 reps a day. 

If you think you have a frozen shoulder or have any further questions feel free to contact us at: 780 862 3111.


  1. Do I need physiotherapy? Can a frozen shoulder heal on its own?

    Frozen shoulders tend to heal on its own and pain typically gets better over time. However, there are some cases where people did not get their full range of motion back following a frozen shoulder. Seeing a physiotherapist and getting the appropriate exercises for your condition can reduce the likelihood of this so it is highly recommended to see one. 
  2. How long does it take for a frozen shoulder to heal? 

    Rehabilitation for a frozen shoulder is a slow and gradual process. It depends on the severity of your condition but the healing process can take anywhere from a few months to 2-3 years. 
  3. Is a frozen shoulder preventable?

    Although there are risk factors for getting a frozen shoulder the exact cause is unknown. Therefore, it is difficult to completely prevent getting a frozen shoulder. However, a frozen shoulder can be prevented if you go through an injury that immobilizes or makes shoulder movement difficult. In this case it is important to implement exercises that work on mobility and flexibility of the shoulder joint.
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