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young woman suffering from frozen shoulder

Immobility resulting after recovery from a broken arm, a shoulder injury or a stroke can cause a condition known as frozen shoulder. This condition is also known as adhesive capsulitis. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. This condition often follows a certain progression and resolves within one to three years.

Treatment for frozen shoulder includes exercises that increase your range of motion. Some doctors also recommend corticosteroid or numbing injections for the joint capsule. Physical therapy is often used to treat the condition as well.

The Three Stages of Frozen Shoulder

This condition usually progresses through three distinct stages. Each stage can last a number of months, and a total resolution of the condition can take as long as three years. Normally, your upper arm, shoulder blade and collarbone are held together with the help of tendons and muscles. They create what is known as the shoulder capsule. The capsule is lubricated with synovial fluid, which keeps the joint moving smoothly.

When you have frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule becomes tight as the capsule thickens, due to the formation of stiff tissues called adhesions. These thick tissues displace some of the synovial fluid. The shoulder joint then becomes stiff and range of motion is lost.

The first stage is called the freezing stage. Over the course of six to nine weeks, the movement of the shoulder becomes more and more limited. You feel the level of pain increase during this time.

The second stage follows immediately. Though you may not have as much pain, you will still have limited motion. Stiffness in the joint impacts your daily activities and makes normal functioning difficult. The second stage can last from four to six months.

In the final or thawing stage, your range of motion slowly increases. You may have a complete return to normal function and strength in your arm. Some individuals may not have a total recovery, but it will be near complete. The thawing stage can take from six months to two years.

Risk Factors

It is not yet clear why some individuals are more susceptible to frozen shoulder than others. Research does show that people with diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and some other medical diseases are at a greater risk for developing the condition. Injuries to the shoulder or arm that require immobilization can also put you at a higher risk for developing frozen shoulder.

Women are more susceptible to frozen shoulder than men. The condition generally occurs in adults who are between the ages of 40 and 60. About 200,000 people are diagnosed with this condition annually.


Frozen shoulder usually resolves on its own over time. Unfortunately, it may take as long as three years to fully run its course. Treatment is used for pain management and to help restore motion and strength.

Over-the-counter NSAIDs are often used to reduce the pain and swelling of frozen shoulder. Some doctors may recommend cortisone injections. This is a strong anti-inflammatory medicine that when injected into the shoulder capsule helps relieve inflammation.

Hydrodilatation is another type of injection used to expand and stretch the shoulder joint capsule. This method uses a large volume of sterile fluid injected into the shoulder capsule. A radiologist performs this procedure and uses imaging to ensure correct placement of the fluid.

A less invasive way to restore motion is through physical therapy. Specific exercises are performed to stretch the shoulder and increase range of motion. Exercises can be done under the supervision of a physical therapist, or they can be learned and practiced at home. Heat can be applied to the shoulder before exercising to help loosen the muscles in the area.

Non-invasive, effective treatment for frozen shoulder is available at Manhattan Sports Therapy. Contact us, and schedule an appointment with Dr. Rolland Miro for a consultation and assessment. New York’s elite athletes and active Manhattan residents depend on Dr. Miro for effective pain-relieving treatment. We help you get back in the game faster.

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