What is frozen shoulder?

Apr 24, 2019

Frozen shoulder (medically known as frozen shoulder contracture syndrome) is a poorly understood condition that typically involves substantial pain and restricted movement. Although movement improves over time, full and pain free range, may not be restored in everyone. Published data suggests that frozen shoulder occurs in 2%–5% of the population.

Patients describe a slow onset (typically for no reason, although possibly related to an injury), pain in the upper arm, inability to sleep on the affected side, and pain raising the arm.

You are more likely to experience a frozen shoulder if you are diabetic or have an under active thyroid, or a member of your  family has had a frozen shoulder. The average age of onset is 52 years in males and 55 years in females.

A frozen shoulder is typically described as passing through three stages:

  1. Frozen or pain stage
  2. Freezing or stiffness stage
  3. Thawing or recovery phase

The average duration of frozen shoulder is 30 months, with a range between 12 and 42 months.


Diagnosis is based upon:

  1. Clinical examination,
  2. Exclusion of other illnesses
  3. Normal shoulder X-ray


Once the diagnosis is established the first stage in treatment involves patient education. People suffering from frozen shoulder typically want to know; what is the problem?, what has caused the problem?, why them?, how long will it last?, what treatments are available?, how effective are the available treatments?, and what are the expected outcomes?

Research suggests that a combination of soft tissue massage, joint mobilization and exercise is highly beneficial in the recovery of frozen shoulder over a 12 week period. Other treatment options for frozen shoulders not improving with conservative treatment can include cortico steroid injections or surgery.

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