Health & Fitness

Troubles that may warn you have frozen shoulder

frozen shoulder
People 40 years and older, particularly women, are more likely to have frozen shoulder. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Are you unable to reach your back, reach your shoulder height or even having trouble tucking in your shirt? You could be suffering from frozen shoulder (Adhesive capsulitis).

What is frozen shoulder?

This is stiffness, pain and limited range of movement in your shoulder. The tissues around the joint stiffen, scar tissue forms, and shoulder movements become difficult and painful. The condition usually comes on slowly, and then goes away slowly over a period of time.

What causes frozen shoulder?

The bones, ligaments and tendons that make up for your shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. Frozen shoulder occurs when this capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting movement.


Certain factors may increase your risk of developing this:

Age and Sex: People 40 years and older, particularly women, are more likely to have frozen shoulder.

Immobility or reduced mobility: This may be as a result of many factors including rotator cuff, broken arm, stroke, and recovery from surgery.

Systemic diseases: These are some diseases that might increase your risk diabetes, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

An X-ray is done to see whether symptoms are from another condition such as arthritis or a broken bone.

A clinical diagnosis of frozen shoulder should be determined by a thorough examination.

Your physiotherapist will ask about what physical activities you are having difficulty performing.

Common issues include:

Inability to reach above shoulder height; inability to throw a ball; difficulty quickly reach for something; struggle to reach behind your back , for example to tighten your bra or tuck in a shirt; inability to reach your side and behind, for example reach for seat belt; and, finding it difficult to sleep on your side.


Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly, and in three stages. Each stage can last a number of months.

• Freezing stage: Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, and your shoulder’s range of motion starts to become limited.

• Frozen stage: Pain may begin to diminish during this stage. However, your shoulder becomes stiffer and using it becomes more difficult.

• Thawing stage: The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.

For some people, the pain worsens at night, sometimes disrupting sleep.

Can frozen shoulder be prevented?

Gentle, progressive range of motion exercises, stretching and using your shoulder more may help prevent frozen shoulder after surgery or an injury.

How is frozen shoulder treated?

• Start with application of heat to the affected area followed with gentle stretching.

• Ice may also be used to reduce pain and swelling.

• Exercises to help increase the range of motion

Sometimes, arthroscopic surgery may be indicated to loosen the joint capsule so that it can move freely.

Eunice Kabana is a physical therapist