What You Need To Know About Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder and physical therapy treatment

What You Need to Know About Frozen Shoulder

By  Michael Hannett, SPT, CSCS from Ivy Rehab Hackensack, New Jersey location clinic.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

A “frozen shoulder”, also referred to as adhesive capsulitis, occurs when the shoulder becomes increasingly stiff and painful. Frozen shoulder can occur after a minor injury, surgery, or without a known cause. It is known to be linked to some diseases such as diabetes and thyroid disease. Patients with frozen shoulder are limited in their ability to carry out everyday tasks including dressing, grooming, and reaching. The condition occurs most commonly in those between 40 and 65 years of age and currently affects 2-5% of the population of the United States.

How Long will Symptoms Last?

The stiffness can persist for 1-2 years and there is a characteristic course of disease progression. Typically, the initial period is characterized by aching at rest and severe pain with movement. The individual typically has difficulty sleeping due to shoulder pain and a progressive loss of motion is noted. Over the next several months, there is often less pain but progressively greater difficulty performing everyday tasks. Eventually, there is a gradual return of range of motion, leading to a return of function.  More recently, clinicians have begun to challenge this characteristic disease progression with the thought that it can be altered with effective interventions such as physical therapy treatment.

What Can Help?

A frozen shoulder can be a painful and frustrating experience but there is treatment available.

Physical Therapy

There is a multitude of evidence to support the effectiveness of physical therapy in reducing the pain and decreased range of motion seen in patients with frozen shoulder. Physical therapy interventions for frozen shoulder include manual therapies, joint mobilizations, therapeutic exercises, stretching, therapeutic ultrasound, laser therapy, and modalities such as electrical stimulation/TENS, heat or ice.

Steroid Injections

There is evidence to support that intra-articular steroid injection in combination with physical therapy can result in significant improvements in the shoulder range of motion in the short-term (6 weeks). However, the evidence does not show that these improvements are maintained in the long term.


Translational manipulation under anesthesia can be performed for a patient who does not respond to conservative physical therapy treatment.

If you think you may be suffering from a frozen shoulder, make an appointment with your physical therapist or primary care physician to begin your road to recovery.

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