Learn more about Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is another name for the medical condition known as Adhesive Capsulitis. As the name suggests, frozen shoulder occurs when the shoulder capsule (a ligament that surrounds the shoulder joint) adheres too tightly to the joint. This freezes or restricts the movement of the shoulder joint, causing stiffness, pain and in some cases an inability to move the shoulder.

Frozen shoulder usually develops gradually and gets progressively worse, but without treatment the effects can become permanent.

There are three main stages of Frozen Shoulder. All cases will go through each phase, but the duration and severity of each phase depend on whether or not treatment is being performed. The typical course of frozen shoulder can last anywhere between 6 months and 3 years.

1. Freezing: Shoulder pain is often felt at night, and an individual will notice that their shoulder is feeling more stiff than normal. As this phase worsens, pain is felt during the day and people will complain of pain during most movements (getting dressed, reaching into cupboards, lifting heavy objects, eating, etc).

2. Frozen: This phase can last 6 months or more, and is characterized by extreme stiffness and loss of movement of the shoulder joint. Pain is generally less during this phase, compared to the Freezing phase.

3. Thawing: As the capsule starts ‘unstick’ from the joint, more movement can be performed with less pain.

Treatment for Frozen shoulder can be performed during all phases, but the outcomes are improved if treatment begins during the freezing phase.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is characterized by pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion of the shoulder, and reports of ‘dull and aching’ pain that can progress to ‘sharp’ with certain movements.

With frozen shoulder, the primary movements of the shoulder that are affected are: external rotation, abduction (lifting the arm away from the body), internal rotation, and flexion.

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What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

The exact reason for the development of this condition is not well understood by the physicians and researchers. The only two identifiable causes thus far are:

  • Diabetes
  • Having a condition that reduces the mobility of your arm: stroke, mastectomy, recovering from surgery, rotator cuff injury, arm fracture, etc.

Statistics also show that individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 are more likely to develop frozen shoulder, with women being the most affected.


The best way to prevent a frozen shoulder from occurring is maintaining an active lifestyle, managing any systemic conditions (ex; diabetes), and ensuring you are following a range of motion/stretching program for your shoulders and upper extremities following an injury or surgery.

How can Physiotherapy Help?

Physiotherapy is the primary method of treating frozen shoulder. Manual therapy and modalities for pain are utilized to maintain the function of the shoulder during the Freezing and Frozen phases, and helps people to regain mobility of their arm in the Thawing phase.

Treatment will include in-clinic manual therapy sessions as well as the prescription of an extensive home exercise program. With regular and frequent intervention, frozen shoulder symptoms can often be well managed.

Additional treatment modalities can be used during physiotherapy sessions including acupuncture, heat and ultrasound therapy.

Why Pillars of Wellness?

At Pillars of Wellness, in Burlington, Ontario, we are proud to provide a truly integrated care approach that employs a variety of treatments to achieve a faster recovery. Our clinic offers various services such as physiotherapy, chiropractic, naturopathy, counselling, occupational therapy, yoga therapy, acupuncture, and holistic nutrition.

With multiple services and specialties in one place, you’ll get the best care possible — without having to look elsewhere. Pillars of Wellness is your one-stop-health solution, located right here in Burlington.