Frozen shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis causing limited shoulder movement

Frozen shoulder, aka adhesive capsulitis, occurs when the joint itself ceases up because some of the joint lining fuses to itself. This takes about 9 months to resolve because the joint goes through a typical sequence of ‘freezing’, frozen, and thawing – each of which takes about 3 months.  Very little can be done to prevent a frozen shoulder from going through this sequence once it begins.  There are isolated examples of manipulation and mobilisation helping to turn back a developing frozen shoulder, but these are rare and may represent incorrect initial diagnosis rather than successful treatment.

The good news is that once the shoulder has frozen it is pretty much pain free – the joint has ceased in the closed position and cannot move, so activities like swimming are not possible.  During this time, the neck and upper back can become dysfunctional due to the altered mechanics the person has to live with over this time.  So generally we will offer treatment for these issues rather than the shoulder itself.  When the thawing begins, some restoration of strength can commence and we will prescribe appropriate exercises.