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

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Frozen shoulder is a condition that leads to pain and stiffness of the shoulder. It is also known as adhesive capsulitis or shoulder contracture.

The symptoms tend to gradually get worse over a number of months or years. You will typically experience shoulder pain for the first two to nine months, which can be severe, followed by increasing stiffness.

The stiffness may affect your ability to carry out everyday activities and, in particularly severe cases, you may not be able to move your shoulder at all.

The condition may improve with time, but this can sometimes take several years.

Read more about the symptoms of frozen shoulder.

When to see your GP

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

The earlier frozen shoulder is diagnosed, the more likely it is that treatment can help prevent long-term pain and stiffness.

Read more about diagnosing frozen shoulder.

What causes frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder occurs 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.

The following can increase your risk of developing a frozen shoulder:

It is estimated that up to 1 in 20 people in the UK may be affected by frozen shoulder at some point in their life. Most people who get frozen shoulder are between the ages of 40 and 60. The condition is more common in women than men.

Read more about the causes of frozen shoulder.

How frozen shoulder is treated

Most people with frozen shoulder will eventually get better, even without treatment. However, appropriate treatment can help reduce pain and improve the movement in your shoulder until it 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. If your symptoms have not improved after six months, surgery may be recommended.

Read more about treating frozen shoulder.

Page last reviewed: 17/03/2014

Next review due: 17/03/2016


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The 24 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

guyontheroad said on 30 August 2014

Hi people: you are not alone. I say this remembering how the loneliness of the condition made the pain even less bearable. Other people do not see the pain and can't be blamed for not understanding what you are going through, but it can help to know that a stranger and fellow sufferer understands.
I would identify two groups: those who at the onset of the condition and those who are already lost to it.
I had FS last year and I have the beginning of symptoms in my other shoulder now. If I learn how to prevent it and keep it at bay, be sure that I will post again here. At the moment I am looking at intelligent exercise.
For those of you who are well into the painful phase and seized up: my heartfelt sympathy. In my case, well-meaning doctors sent me for physiotherapy much too early and all it achieved was make the make the ripping pain worse. I was already dragging myself to work after another sleepless, pain-filled night, and to have to schlepp to the hospital in the evening to be subjected to pointless torture was as bad as it sounds. An unsympathetic specialist wanted to send me for arthroscopic surgery, but even though by then I was desperate I didn't like the sound of the butchery and decided agin it. What she failed to tell me, and I found out only by investigating online, was that if you have the patience, the time and the staying power, frozen shoulder Does go away on its own. It took over a year, but I now have a very good right shoulder with no pain and full movement except for reaching up much behind my back. So don't give up!
A technique that I didn't know about and wasn't told about either (doctors: they don't know or they don't tell you: either way they can be the death of you) and which looks effective and conclusively so is hydrostatic distension. Which of you out there now with excruciating disability and feeling 30 years older than you are wouldn't jump (very gently) at the chance of a quick cure with two injections? Good luck all.

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big fury lion said on 29 August 2014

I have been dagosed wih FS and have been suffering for 5 months. I have had heat theorpy and injections My pain is just starting to ease now, i still get pain at rest and bed time is a nightmare. I have the sharp pain when i move my arm beyond restriction. I have difficulty doing my job as i am a Police Communiy support officer currently on restricted light office duties because of it.

My problem is the restricted movement of my arm. I cant raise my arm above my head or behind my back. Even pulling up my jeans after the toilet is painful. washing hair tieing back hair etc. I really need to get back out on patrol my I think employers patients is running out.

Does anyone know about operations to release the restriction? manipulation under anthestic? is it sucessful? Please helpi m getting desperate.

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lynngm said on 09 August 2014

Hello everyone,
Thank goodness for this site and all the comments written. I went to the doctors with this and they sent me to the physio who diagnosed a frozen shoulder. I work as a nurse in a busy emergency theatre department and have been finding things very difficult. I have not been off sick but have found the simplest of tasks hard to carry out. I haven't had any other tests etc but it seems textbook stuff. But the pain is horrendous and I find it totally depressing at times. I also felt maybe I was just being a wimp but I feel so much better having read your comments. As a nurse colleagues pretty much think "oh it's only a frozen shoulder" It is amazing how old it makes you feel. I have to do my mums bra for her and now my daughter fastens mine. I wouldn't mind but my mum is 83 and I am 57!!! What with my dodgy knees and back maybe it's time to visit the vet!! ha ha. Good luck to everyone and thanks for the encouragement. There is a light at the end of a very long tunnel. xx

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Sallyann125 said on 13 July 2014

I had the same agony of FS as you, feel very bad for you as you have young children and it has been awful for me without dependants.

I also had the injection under X ray, which although painful at the time, has given me back 75% pain free and increased movement. Do see your GP or consultant asap to find out about this.

You cannot work in such pain, nor without any normal sleep. I was up 2-3 times every night in pain, painkillers do not last and it is an absolute nightmare have your family who love you.
Buy a large V shaped pillow to get your body / shoulder as comfortable as possible anytime you can sleep or snooze. Try frozen pack with cover (or heat) whichever works for you, they were tremendous to me. Do try meditation or breathing techniques. My thoughts are so with you.
Take care. xx

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Mummy ear said on 08 June 2014

Hi everyone , i feel so alone , i have had fs for 2 weeks now , on top of my ongoing calcific tendonitis both in my left shoulder , im 39 and have 3 girls my youngest being just 6 , i decided to look for some support after my 6 year old asked me "are you going to die mummy " she had just seen me slump on the floor in the most horrendous pain , i cant do her hair , button her jacket anything , im on strong painkillers to no avail , i havent slept in my bed for 2 weeks , instead im pacing most nights or catching wat sleep i can sitting upright on a chair , im getting an injection on thursday , to loosen the stiffness i think ? Has anyone else felt the benefit from this ? I had been offered a job as a housekeeper in a hotel which iv had to reject , after 4 years of searching , im so depressed at this point , does this condition get covered by disability benefits ? My daughters age 16 and 17 are caring for me , cant do much at all and I'm getting scared about going out incase i get bumped into , (this has happened one one occasion ) excruciating agony , any advice from anyone would be so appreciated x

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chelle65 said on 28 May 2014

(cont ) - Sorry but I need to vent my frustrations.. And so almost 18months later, my 1st fs on right side still hurts from time to time, but the pain generally has diminished and I have about 75-80% mobility/rom back, which is not that great. At this stage, I haven't sought any physical rehab for the 1st fs shoulder as I am waiting for the left side to improve so I can recondition both at the same time. Also, as I have significant reduction in rom in left side, the right side is compensating right now so don't want to overdo it! I long for the day I feel well again and can get a good night's sleep - I feel like I have aged 10years in the last 2years from sleep deprivation and constant pain. Unless you have had a fs, one cannot understand the difficulty one faces each day... I don't want sympathy, just some understanding as sometimes those around me probably get sick of my whining; I try to be conscious of not being upset by this situation but sometimes when your kids want you to play or just come up for a hug and accidentally bump your arm, besides the excruciating pain one experiences (in front of your child), its times like this that one realizes the impact fs can have on one's quality of life and those around them. I'm a 49yo female who is told that this condition is common more in women than men and it happens around menopause... I take solace in the fact that it will improve eventually... Sending out good health wishes to all the other fs sufferers!

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chelle65 said on 28 May 2014

To all my fellow sufferers I feel your pain as I am currently suffering through my second frozen shoulder (fs). The first was on my dominant right side and now, almost 12months later I have fs on the left side, both equally painful with 'hotspots' and referred nerve pain along the entire length of my left arm to my hands/fingers. With the first fs, I saw a chiro for 3mths, then a physio (3mths) who eventually diagnosed fs. They suggested I consult an orthopedic surgeon who again confirmed the diagnosis. Surgeon suggested I undergo hydrodilatation. The procedure itself was horrendous, but after 3-4weeks I did see improvement (in pain, not movement). However, I cannot definitively say the improvement was related to the procedure itself because at the time, much time had passed and the shoulder may have transitioned into the next phase of fs (freezing), where pain reduces but stiffening increases (for me -around 8-9mths). This time around, I am trying to avoid hydrodilatation and manage the pain myself, but I am struggling to cope with the persistent pain and discomfort of the nerve pain and the sharp, intense 'grabbing' pain in the shoulder whenever I try to dress myself or push my arm/shoulder beyond its current limitations. I have become so used to the pain that during the day I only take pain relief if it's really bothering me. Otherwise I keep pain relief to the nighttime when the stiffening increases the pain. For me, it's all about pain management. I tried acupuncture but it aggravated the nerve impingement so I was in agony for says after. So with this one, I choose to just leave it alone and keep myself busy during the day so I don't notice the pain as much! I find if I don't dwell on it, I can cope! During the day, if the pain exacerbates, I'll use topical (external)analgesic such as Huo Lu Medicated oil or Wintergreen Essential Oil, to take the edge off. (cont)

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jojo64 said on 13 May 2014

Having suffered as everyone else with a frozen shoulder for the past nine months , Desperately I searched for alternative treatment , however a very good physio friend gave me the best advice ever , do not spend large amounts of money on so called specialist services , Try this treatment , take regular painkillers which ever suits you , go swimming three times a week , at first the thought of doing this feared me as I struggled putting a costume on , however I devised a way got into the pool and started with gentle strokes (breaststroke) trust me the pain was horrendous but I stuck with it and slowly continued to swim, you do feel pain after , 3 weeks later I was swimming 20 lengths with a good range of movement and slowly but surely stiffness reduced, pain became less and less , I can honestly say for me this worked I now have 80% mechanical movement back and I would recommend this to anyone who like me was depressed in pain , not sleeping and all the rest that comes with a frozen shoulder , simple no pain no gain try it .

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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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