Frozen Shoulder aka Adhesive Capsulitis

Has your shoulder become sore and stiff? Does it feel like it has become frozen in place? There are many causes of shoulder pain and stiffness, and frozen shoulder is one of them.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also known as Adhesive Capsulitis is a condition where the shoulder joint capsule thickens and tightens. The naturally occurring lubricating fluid in the shoulder joint can also reduce in this condition. These changes can lead to shoulder pain and stiffness. 

There are three stages of frozen shoulder:

1. Freezing Stage: this stage involves shoulder pain that gradually worsens. The shoulder movements also become increasingly restricted. You may find it more difficult to do daily activities such as putting on shirts, reaching up into cupboards and doing your hair. 

2. Frozen stage: during this stage the shoulder pain may reduce, but the shoulder is still stiff and movements remain restricted. 

3. Thawing stage: finally, shoulder movements slowly return.

What does Frozen Shoulder Feel Like?

Usually there is pain around the outside of your shoulder and upper arm. Most pain occurs in the early stages of Frozen Shoulder

A feeling of stiffness in your shoulder

Difficulty with arm movements due to pain and stiffness

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

The exact cause of Frozen Shoulder isn’t fully known, but there are certain factors that are associated with Frozen Shoulder:

– Acute injuries, such as a fall, or overuse injuries such as shoulder bursitis or rotator cuff tendonitis, can restrict shoulder movements. When the shoulder is immobilised, it can cause the joint capsule to thicken

-Other causes of prolonged shoulder immobilisation, such as a stroke or after surgery

-Thyroid conditions

-Parkinson’s disease

-Diabetes 

How is Frozen Shoulder Treated?

Frozen shoulder is self-limiting, meaning that it usually resolves on its own, however the recovery time can be lengthy. It can take 1-3 years for Frozen Shoulder to resolve. 

Physical therapy, such as Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and acupuncture can help to manage symptoms of Frozen Shoulder, and maintain shoulder mobility. Surrounding muscles and joints can also become stiff and tight, physical therapy can help with this also. 

If physical therapy doesn’t help, other treatment options include:

-Corticosteroid injections to reduce pain and improve mobility

-Shoulder Hydrodilatation: cortisone or saline injection into the joint to improve shoulder mobility and reduce pain

-Manipulation Under Anaesthesia: the shoulder joint is mobilised after general anesthesia is administered

-Shoulder arthroscopy: keyhole surgery to remove any scar tissue and release the joint

How Can Osteopathy Help Frozen Shoulder?

Your Osteopath will assess you to determine the extent of the frozen shoulder, and to assess whether other conditions may be causing the pain and stiffness. They will tailor a treatment plan specific to you. 

Treatment modalities can include soft tissue massage, stretching, joint mobilisation, and dry needling to help reduce your shoulder pain and stiffness.

Your Osteopath will also assess surrounding areas for restrictions, and may treat these areas also. 

They may show you exercises that you can do at home to help maintain mobility, and to strengthen the surrounding muscles once mobility has improved.


If you are experiencing shoulder pain or stiffness, our team at take2health would love to help you. You can book an appointment online, or give us a call on 9363 4100.