Frozen shoulder 


Shoulder pain

A physiotherapist explains what you can do to prevent and ease shoulder pain, and when to get help from an expert.

Media last reviewed: 13/11/2012

Next review due: 13/11/2014

How common is frozen shoulder?

It is estimated that up to one in 20 people may be affected by frozen shoulder.

Most people who get frozen shoulder are between 40-60 years of age. It is more common in women than in men.

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Practical ways to beat pain, including relaxation tips, breathing exercises and courses for patients

Frozen shoulder is a painful condition that affects movement of the shoulder.

Frozen shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis or shoulder contracture.

If you have frozen shoulder, the amount of movement in your shoulder joint will be reduced. In severe cases, you may not be able to move your shoulder at all.

The most common symptoms are pain and stiffness in the shoulder.

Read more about the symptoms of frozen shoulder.

What causes frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is caused when the flexible tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint, known as the capsule, becomes inflamed and thickened.

It is not fully understood why this happens, although there are a number of things that make developing a frozen shoulder more likely. These include having:

Read more about the causes of frozen shoulder.

When to see your GP

You should visit your GP if you have shoulder pain that limits your range of movement.

diagnosis of frozen shoulder needs to be made early so treatment for the condition can be started quickly to help prevent long-term pain and stiffness developing in your joint.

Treating frozen shoulder

Some people with frozen shoulder may get better over a period of 18-24 months. In other cases, symptoms can persist for several years.

Studies suggest that about 50% of people with frozen shoulder continue to experience symptoms up to seven years after the condition starts. However, with appropriate treatment it is possible to shorten the period of disability.

The aim of treatment is to keep your joint as mobile and pain free as possible while your shoulder heals. The type of treatment you receive will depend on how severe your frozen shoulder is and how far it has progressed.

Painkillers, corticosteroid injections, shoulder exercises and physiotherapy are all possible treatment options. Surgery may be recommended if your symptoms have not improved after six months.

Read more about treating frozen shoulder.

Page last reviewed: 28/04/2012

Next review due: 28/04/2014


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The 16 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

suqie76 said on 20 April 2014

I have a frozen shoulder which is is very stiff and painfull, I was first put on solpadol and naproxen an last Thursday I had the steroid injection but I don't feel any better and movement is still bad I am not sure what to do now I got pysio on may 6th do wait for then or do I phone the docs on Tuesday when they re open fed up with being in pain

any ideas

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Sallyann125 said on 17 April 2014

Firstly, can I sincerely empathise with all frozen shoulder sufferers.
We all have a story to tell of how it came about, mine was following a fall on concrete nine
months ago. I bruised my left side of face (and ego!), cut my left leg and felt nothing in my arm.
One month later my left arm started twinging, then had an awful squeezing, constricting tightening pain
up and down my arm which increasingly worsened. I went to my Doctor who examined it and said take
Painkillers, nothing wrong then it got so bad I was hospitalised. They thought it was my heart, so sent me home awaiting tests…..months went by, tests which involved lying flat gave me excruciating pain but came back negative.
Then to Physiotherapists who thought it was a trapped nerve in my neck, again awaited at least another month for MRI of neck. Waited another 2 weeks for result, negative. Put on Gaberpentin, which I managed to get myself off, fair enough if it was helping the pain but it was making no difference.
I went to an Osteopath, who said I was in too much pain for massage and acupuncture but recommended to try Bowen treatment. I found a brilliant Bowen therapist, although the pain and stiffness did not reduce hugely, this relaxed me and relieved a growing depression.
Then I saw a brilliant Physiotherapist who believed how much pain I was in and referred me to a Shoulder Specialist. 9 months later I had the outpatient appointment. They gave me an injection in the clinic which did a little good. One month later I had an appointment for an injection under X Ray guidance, which I have just had this week. It has been fantastic in relief from pain and reduced stiffness, although at the time it was very painful – well worth it. Has anyone else had the squeezing, tightening arm pain at the start of their frozen shoulder please? Best wishes and a pain free Easter to you all!

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april in paris said on 12 April 2014

I have been having problems with my shoulders over the last few months, and have gone down the GP route with blood tests, ultrasound, physio, etc. treating me for rotator cuff injury. My symptoms kept getting worse so i did some research and found a Consultant Ortho who specialises in shoulder disorders in my area and paid privately to see him.
After a thorough examination and lots of questions, and x-rays to rule out arthritis/bone spurs, he diagnosed frozen shoulders. He offered cortisone injections for pain relief but ultimately recommended surgery using arthroscopic adhesive capsular release. He said 90% of his patients regain full movement almost immediately after surgery.
Now, whilst this sounds amazing to be finally rid of the debilitating condition - I really don't want to have any invasive treatment if there's any alternatives that might work. So, have been back on the laptop again and found a really informative website ( recommending the Neil Asher Technique which involves using a sequenced series of pressure points and stretching maneuvers. Would be really interested if anyone on here has any knowledge or experience of this technique? Or anything else that has worked which is non invasive?

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User860001 said on 28 March 2014

Frozen Shoulders can be easily helped as there's a technique called NAT that specialises in removing frozen shoulder pain, there's also a manual therapy called EMMETT that reduces pain and restriction. clinical trials have been done in Addenbrook hospital that shows NAT to be twice as successful as physiotherapy and injections. NAT takes 5 to 13 sessions to resolve frozen shoulders, EMMETT takes a similar time. Frozen shoulder pain isn't always in the shoulder but often is a sharp pain going down the side of your arm with resulting loss of movement, there are 3 phases to frozen shoulder and if caught early on in phase one (freezing phase) is very easy to treat, having said that phase 2 (frozen phase) and phase 3 (thawing phase) is also treatable with manual therapy like NAT or EMMETT.

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Sarah45 said on 01 November 2013

Can I suggest that if you are suffering with a frozen shoulder you try acupuncture. I have been suffering with this for several months and constantly dosing myself up with painkillers, which for most of the time, didn't do a thing. I kept putting off seeking some treatment, as I thought it would go better by itself, but it got to be so unbearable, I thought I would give acupuncture a go. I have had this in the past for both back and neck pain and it has worked wonders. I have now had four sessions and I can't believe the difference in my shoulder. I have much more movement in it and it is considerably less painful. I will continue with the acupuncture and will reduce the time between sessions and hope that in the not too distant future it will be back to normal.

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bd66 said on 23 September 2013

[following my prev blog], I think my problems started from falling hard on my coccyx 4 yrs ago - 6 weeks later my back and shoulders went into spasm - just felt tight and painful up into my neck. Deep tissue massage and chiropractic worked well...the story continues on my prev blog as I developed the tight tendons round my shoulder blade with no obvious reason ......b4 this episode I swam 2 x half miles a week and did yoga and scottish dancing - so not a couch spud !

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bd66 said on 23 September 2013

9 mths ago I developed v painful knotted tendons in my L shoulder blade and assoc pain into my L neck muscles - had to stop exercise - chiropractor did effective soft tissue work and I did recommended exercises - but to save the 40 mile round trip, I switched to a local osteopath - 2 appts and things got a lot worse and I developed a frozen shoulder. Undefeated, I bought a small ultrasound machine (for the price of <2 practitioner appts) which with heat pad and Brufen helps enormously - After several weeks with ultrasound 5-6 days a wk, I can do most yoga exercises, though not back to swimming yet. And yes FS pain is really bad - L is my preferred sleeping side and as I move back to it in my sleep, I wake up constantly, losing both quantity and quality of sleep - misery . I have just made an appt to ask my GP for a steroid injection for the affected shoulder - lets see what happens there.......

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mimi2020 said on 15 August 2013

in my experience (now in 2nd occurrence of frozen shoulder), the sharpest pain tends to be in the upper, inner arm and not the shoulder itself. Jarring the arm causes debilitating pain that takes up to a minute to subside. If mobility is a major issue, it is possible to have the arm manipulated under anaesthesia but not sure how widely available that is. It doesn't sort the pain but it means you can move better.

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ajs73 said on 01 August 2013

I have had pain and difficulty moving my left arm for roughly 3 weeks, and it has literally caused me sleepless nights. I just thought it was due to hitting my forties but after another sleepless night I finally made an appointment to see my GP who diagnosed a frozen shoulder. The biggest issue for me is that I can't take anti-inflammatories so I am trying to manage with just painkillers. Its very frustrating(and painful) doing things like fastening a bra or washing your back, but I have been advised to keep my arm as mobile as possible. Would heat work to ease this or would it make it worse?

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Buba1954 said on 04 June 2013

Seen consultant today he is refering me for a hydrfill? injection anyone had one and what was the outcome?

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Buba1954 said on 03 June 2013

I had an op on my shoulder in Feb and was warned that there was a small chance that I could get afrozen shoulder as I am a lady in my 50s. As I was in a lot of pain and I had already had same op on other shoulder I agreed to the op. Unfortunately I now have a frozen shoulder. Sitting here now my bicep is going into spasms and I want to scream. I take anti inflammatory pills, was using codeine and paracetamol but have now gone to oramorph, it does help a bit at night. I have also recieved a letter from work saying that they need a medical report and a meeting with me to decide if they can keep my job open. Just holding on to the hope that it will get better. I am fortunate as I am still under a consultant and having physio ( which does not appear to help much) and am being referred to the hydrotherapy pool. Another op has been mentioned but would be interesred to hear other peoples experience of it. Meanwhile it is nice to read other peoples comments as you do not feel so alone.

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Samarinda55 said on 20 March 2013

I've had shoulder/upper arm pain for at least 3 years,as with other comments,can't sleep,pain moves diabetes,just had triple bypass.had physio for tennis elbow a year ago,told him about the shoulder,but he was clueless.i thought it was arthritis or my bed.just mentioned it to the locum doctor today,and she said frozen shoulder straight away.wish I'd have seen this website and the comments before,I've never heard of frozen shoulder.

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trebor49 said on 01 February 2013

it as been very helpful to me to read all these reports.
in july 2012 i took a fall at work which i thought nothing off,just got up and laugh at did other staff who played it back on C.C.T.V
a few days later i was in pain,ankle ,shoulder,knee.i made the normal appointment at my doctors surgery only to be seen by a locum.she examined me and said yes your right a frozen shoulder but made appointment at local hostipal x ray dept for my ankle and knee which are both fine now.but no xray on the shoulder she said the shoulder would get worse before better?.
i made yet another appointment but this time to see a diffrent doctor,who was very helpful indeed.pain killers was issued for the first 2 months as things did not get any better cant sleep for the pain,find it hard to do my job,even getting dressed was an issue.finally i went back to the doctors and i was referred to the hospital who have decided to do key hole surgery.(SO IF ANYONE AS HAD THIS DONE I WOULD LIKE TO NOW YOUR OUTCOME)so i am now waiting for my appointment.but the worse thing of all is the lack of understanding of my boss??
i am diabetic and have thyroid problems which does not help with this problem but in my heart of hearts i still think this happened when i took the fall.
not sure if i should claim or not??

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User676406 said on 15 May 2012

Adhesive capsulitis is a very complex condition. In my experience as a sports therapist treating acute and chronic shoulder pain, the pain often moves around and is not always directly in the joint. I work on each and every muscle involved in moving the shoulder and get excellent results. Find a good sports physio or chiropractor with good soft-tissue knowledge in your area and they will be able to asses your individual problem. No two shoulders are the same! Good luck with your healing journey.

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dametwiddy said on 12 May 2012

Hi, I too have sharp pain at the top of my arm (Mid point between elbow and shoulder), more pain here than in the actual shoulder. I am not sure if this is the norm, so I am hoping others can comment is it is. I have also been told this is a frozen shoulder.

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mother123 said on 04 May 2012

i've just been diagnosed with frozen shoulder after weeks of pain on movement of my left arm, but i seem to have sharpe pain at the top of my arm on movement not just the shoulder, is this the case with this condition.

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