30 Jan 2021

Frozen Shoulder Causes and Treatments





Bryan Se To

Frozen shoulder, otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where the shoulder capsule thickens and involves stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It results in loss of motion i.e. “frozen”, which can affect your day-to-day activities.
Image Source: Mayo Clinic

3 Stages of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder develops slowly and typically follows the following 3 stages:

First Stage: Freezing stage (Painful stage)

You experience significant pain in this stage and your shoulder’s range of motion starts to be limited.

Second Stage: Frozen stage (Stiff stage)

Pain may begin to ease however you develop increased stiffness and restrictions in movement.

Third Stage: Thawing stage (Recovery stage)

Pain level drops and shoulder motion begins to improve. This stage can last more than a year.


The causes for frozen shoulders can be classified into 2 categories:


It can occur without any known causes. However, research has shown that diabetic patients are more prone to develop frozen shoulders.


There is a cause for the frozen shoulder. For instance, patients show clear evidence of a trauma such as suffering from fractures and tendon injuries.


Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of frozen shoulders include

  • Shoulder pain
  • Limited range of shoulder movement
  • Difficulties with day-to-day activities, especially those that involve lifting your arm up, reaching behind your back and/or head


Risk Factors for Developing a Frozen Shoulder

  • Age and Sex

Frozen shoulder commonly affects patients between the ages of 40 and 60 years old and in particular, it is more commonly suffered by women than in men.

  • Shoulder Trauma, Reduced Mobility or Surgery

Patients who had

- Shoulder injury

- Post surgery

- Prolonged immobility of shoulders. Reasons include rotator cuff injury and broken arm etc 

  • Systemic Conditions

You are more likely to develop frozen shoulder if you have certain diseases such as

- Diabetes

- Parkinson's disease

- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

- Depression

- Lung disease

- Cardiovascular disease


Diagnosis of Frozen Shoulders

Physical Exam by your practitioner may include:

  • Applying pressure on the shoulder to diagnose areas of pain
  • Moving the shoulder in various directions to see if there is movement and to determine if pain comes with these movements 
  • Monitoring your shoulder’s range of motion. Limited external rotation is one of the hallmarks of a frozen shoulder


How Do I Prevent It?

Unfortunately, you are unable to prevent frozen shoulders from occurring however it is possible to minimise the complications by doing home exercises taught by your practitioner to maintain the range of motion in your shoulder joint.


Treatment Options

The objective is to control the pain and restore movement and strength.


Oral anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to reduce pain and swelling 


Physiotherapy sessions can help to restore movement in the shoulder and help you eventually regain functional movement. It can include exercises to achieve good posture as well as to improve range of motion, especially during Frozen and Thawing Stages. Through manual therapy, physiotherapy modalities and exercise programs, it can help to limit the extent of your condition. You can find physio treatment for frozen shoulder here by clicking on the Physiotherapy category. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

A TCM practitioner may use a combination of these methods to treat frozen shoulders.

  • Moxibustion
  • Acupuncture
  • Cupping/ Tuina massage
  • Herbal medication

Find TCM treatment for frozen shoulder here by clicking on the TCM category.

Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractic treatment can help to improve the shoulder’s range of motion and speed up recovery. A chiropractor can treat frozen shoulders by manipulating the joints and muscle tissues. Treatment involves applying pressure to reduce pain. Find Chiropractic treatment for frozen shoulder here by clicking on the Chiropractic category.


For patients who do not respond to treatment options, they may be recommended to undergo surgery. The procedure  is done under anaesthesia to help to increase range of movement. For treatment information, please discuss options with your orthopaedic doctor. 


How can Calibrate help?

With our verified practitioners such as Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Sports Massage Therapists, TCM and more, Calibrate seeks to help you better understand your treatment options. You may schedule a 1-1 consultation with us here to be directed to suitable experts for your unique conditions. Or, find a frozen shoulder specialist near you. Alternatively, speak to our Care Team using our website's live chat or contact us directly.