Frozen Shoulder

Physiotherapy is very effective for the treatment of frozen shoulder, a condition characterised by the shoulder becoming very stiff and very painful to move. We also offer injections for frozen shoulder and these can be highly effective for pain relief and for regaining range of movement.  Click here for more information about steroid injections. 

What is frozen shoulder?  

The definative cause of frozen shoulder remains a mystery.  In some cases there is known to be a build up of adhesions inside the joint, in other cases the capsule (membrane around all joints) shrinks and there is evidence to suggest capsule in-growth of nerves and blood vessels making the joint sensitive to movement. There are lots of possible contributing factors but 'true' frozen shoulder is insidious (no known cause).  If there is trauma to the shoulder then the joint reacts, becomes tighter and a capsular restriction will develop.  Another name is 'adhesive capsulitis'.  Where we are unsure of a cause we will term this 'idiopathic adhesive capsulitis'.

  • What does it feel like?
  • Loss of movement – severe
  • Pain - Severe
  • Pain in shoulder joint, upper arm, neck (may refer down or into the neck because of muscle spasm).
  • Pain may descend into elbow and forearm (common referral pattern)
  • Pins and needles in the hand and forearm (nerves may get strained due to build up tension in muscles around the neck).


How is it diagnosed?

Frozen shoulder has 4 stages:  Stage 1 - is very, very sore and painful and is known as the Reactive stage where the capsule is sensitive. The reactive stage lasts for a few weeks to a few months and can persist into the 'freezing stage'. Stage 2 - the arm becomes stiffer to move with persisting pain. We call this the Freezing stage. Stage 3 - this is the frozen stage where the arm is 1/2 to 1/4 limited in all directions.  Most painful behind the back.  Stage 4: After many months (sometimes years) there is a gradual return to normal movement, we call this the 'Thawing phase'.   



How do we treat frozen shoulder?

Steroid injection is one of our preferred methods of treatment.

Acupuncture / Dry needling technique is highly effective in pain reduction and tissue release and can be used to access stretching with less pain.

Spinal Manipulation



Joint mobilisation

Massage / sports Massage

Trigger point release

Myo-fascial release




Unsure if physiotherapy can help? Get in touch and ask the experts!