Adhesive capsulitis, more commonly known as a ‘frozen shoulder’, is a painful condition that is characterised by stiffness and a loss of motion in the shoulder. What causes frozen shoulder, what can you do about it and how can you stop it from happening in the first place? Let’s take a look!

What is a frozen shoulder?

The tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint and holds it together is called the capsule – when this becomes inflamed, this band of tissue becomes stiff, which restricts the movement of the shoulder.

There is no clear cause of frozen shoulder, however hormonal imbalances, diabetes or a weakened immune system can make you more susceptible to joint inflammation. Long periods of inactivity following injury, illness or surgery also increase the chance of a stiff shoulder joint.

What are the symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

If you develop adhesive capsulitis, you are likely to experience symptoms in three stages across a period of approximately 1-3 years.

Initially, the shoulder will be intensely painful, and any movement will cause pain. At this stage, movement begins to become limited. The discomfort often leads to avoiding moving the shoulder, which further increases the stiffness. When the shoulder is at its most stiff, pain may reduce somewhat, but movement becomes more difficult. Once the shoulder begins to “thaw”, the range of motion then improves.

Many people say that the pain is worse at night and can keep them awake.

How do you treat a frozen shoulder?

Physiotherapy is the most common treatment for a frozen shoulder. A physio will help you to stretch your shoulder joint to recover the range of motion and will teach you a program of gentle exercises to do at home.

While you’re waiting for your physio appointment, putting an ice pack on the shoulder for 15 minutes, several times a day, can help to reduce the pain.

Who is at increased risk of a frozen shoulder?

The following people are at greater risk of developing adhesive capsulitis:

  • Those over the age of 50
  • Women
  • People with diabetes
  • People with thyroid conditions
  • People with cardiovascular disease
  • Anyone who has to remain still for long periods of time due to illness or surgery
  • Anyone who needs to wear a shoulder sling for a long period of time following an injury

What can you do to prevent a frozen shoulder?

As immobility is a major cause of a frozen shoulder, if you suffer an injury or illness that will keep you out of action for a while, speak to a physiotherapist about exercises that you can do safely to keep your shoulder moving.

If you’re experiencing pain or loss of motion in your shoulder, give us a call on 9838 3030 or email and we’ll talk to you about how we can help.