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Frozen Shoulder: Treatment & Recovery


Adhesive capsulitis, or better known as frozen shoulder, is a painful condition that significantly limits shoulder mobility and function. Generally, frozen shoulder occurs more frequently in females who are 40-65 years of age with history of diabetes, thyroid disease, or a history of frozen shoulder on the other shoulder. Although the cause for a frozen shoulder is still unknown, we do know that frozen shoulder follows a fairly predictable staged recovery.

These stages include:

  • Stage 1 (Pre Freezing) – You start to develop shoulder pain and notice a slight loss in mobility over the course of 1-3 months.

  • Stage 2 (Freezing) – Pain is progressively worsening and you begin to lose more mobility. Sleeping becomes challenging. This stage usually occurs 3-9 months after onset of pain.

  • Stage 3 (Frozen) – Pain and mobility begin to stabilize but you continue to experience pain and loss of motion for 9-14 months after the onset of pain.

  • Stage 4 (Thawing) – Pain begins to decrease as mobility gradually improves. This stage usually occurs 12-15 months after onset of pain.

Physical Therapy can help treat frozen shoulder at any stage. While you are in stage 1, 2 or 3, your physical therapist will show you exercises, activity modifications and positioning to help reduce your shoulder pain. He or she may recommend ice or heat for pain management. In general, therapy at this stage shoulder be performed in low pain ranges. Studies have found no additional benefit with stretching into intense pain levels.

When you reach stage 4 (thawing stage), therapy will be focused on restoring your shoulder mobility and strengthening your arm in new ranges of movement with the goal of returning you to a normal, functional level.

Over the years, we've treated many patients with frozen shoulder and have seen excellent outcomes in treating our patient's shoulder conditions. If you, or someone you care about is facing this condition, reach out to us. Helping our patient's get to the cause of their pain and discomfort and stop living in pain, is the goal we strive for everyday.

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