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Frozen Shoulder

Topic Overview

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is stiffness, pain, and limited range of movement in your shoulder. It may happen after an injury or overuse or from a disease such as diabetes or a stroke. The tissues around the joint stiffen, scar tissue forms, and shoulder movements become difficult and painful. The condition usually comes on slowly, then goes away slowly over the course of a year or more.

What causes frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder can develop when you stop using the joint normally because of pain, injury, or a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or a stroke. Any shoulder problem can lead to frozen shoulder if you do not work to keep full range of motion.

Frozen shoulder occurs:

  • After surgery or injury.
  • Most often in people 40 to 70 years old.
  • More often in women (especially in postmenopausal women) than in men.
  • Most often in people with chronic diseases.

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

Your doctor may suspect frozen shoulder if a physical exam reveals limited shoulder movement. An X-ray may be done to see whether symptoms are from another condition such as arthritis or a broken bone.

How is it treated?

Treatment for frozen shoulder usually starts with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and application of heat to the affected area, followed by gentle stretching. Ice and medicines (including corticosteroid injections) may also be used to reduce pain and swelling. And physical therapy can help increase your range of motion. A frozen shoulder can take a year or more to get better. But if treatment is not helping, surgery is sometimes done to loosen some of the tight tissues around the shoulder. This surgery is often done with an arthroscope.

Can frozen shoulder be prevented?

Gentle, progressive range-of-motion exercises, stretching, and using your shoulder more may help prevent frozen shoulder after surgery or an injury. Experts don't know what causes some cases of frozen shoulder, and it may not be possible to prevent these. But be patient and follow your doctor's advice. Frozen shoulder nearly always gets better over time.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
6300 North River Road
Rosemont, IL  60018-4262
Phone: (847) 823-7186
Fax: (847) 823-8125
Email: orthoinfo@aaos.org
Web Address: www.orthoinfo.aaos.org
 

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury prevention, and wellness and exercise.


American Physical Therapy Association
1111 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA  22314-1488
Phone: 1-800-999-APTA (1-800-999-2782)
(703) 684-2782
Fax: (703) 684-7343
TDD: (703) 683-6748
Web Address: www.apta.org
 

The American Physical Therapy Association is a national organization representing nearly 70,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research. The APTA also provides information and education to the public about physical therapy and how it is used to treat certain conditions.


National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), National Institutes of Health
1 AMS Circle
Bethesda, MD  20892-3675
Phone: 1-877-22-NIAMS (1-877-226-4267) toll-free
Phone: (301) 495-4484
Fax: (301) 718-6366
TDD: (301) 565-2966
Email: niamsinfo@mail.nih.gov
Web Address: www.niams.nih.gov
 

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is a governmental institute that serves the public and health professionals by providing information, locating other information sources, and participating in a national federal database of health information. NIAMS supports research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases and supports the training of scientists to carry out this research.

The NIAMS website provides health information referrals to the NIAMS Clearinghouse, which has information packages about diseases.


Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • McMahon PJ, Kaplan LD (2006). Shoulder stiffness section of Sports medicine. In HB Skinner, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 4th ed, pp. 208–210. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Mercier LR (2008). Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) section of The shoulder. In Practical Orthopedics, 6th ed, pp. 66–67. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
Last Revised August 29, 2011

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