Everything You Need to Know About Frozen Shoulder

frozen shoulder sheffield

You may not realise how much you use your shoulders until you have a problem with one of them. Frozen shoulder is a painful condition and can make simple activities like getting dressed or reaching for things very difficult.

The official medical name is adhesive capsulitis, it’s termed as frozen shoulder because it makes your shoulder become unable to move properly, it can feel like it is so stiff, that it is actually frozen. It can be a disabling condition.

What causes frozen shoulder?

The shoulder joint has a sleeve surrounding it, called the capsule. This sleeve can become inflamed, swollen and thickened, causing pain and difficulty moving the shoulder or upper arm.

What does having frozen shoulder feel like?

Frozen shoulder takes a long time to heal on it’s own.

Frozen shoulder can be unpredictable, some people may recover from it in 18 months, some cases may take 5 or more years to heal, it’s not something that usually gets better on it’s own, quickly.

Frozen shoulder occurs in 3 stages

Freezing (2-9 months) – Your shoulder starts to ache and movement becomes painful. Sleeping on the shoulder can cause discomfort.
Frozen (4-12 months) – Your shoulder becomes stiffer until you find you have difficulty moving it at all. The pain may not get worse and could even get better, but reaching for things or raising your arm above your head starts to feel restricted. Your muscles around your shoulder may start to weaken slightly as you begin to use them less.
Thawing (6 months – unknown) – The joint will feel freer you will be able to move slightly better. Usually as movement is regained, some pain can start to creep back in as you begin to use the arm more again.

Who is at risk from developing frozen shoulder?

  • Frozen shoulder is most common in people aged 40-60.
  • It affects 1 in 30 people at some point.
  • People who have had prolonged immobility are more likely to suffer from frozen shoulder. Such as a recovery period from stroke or a surgery, or have had a broken arm or rotator-cuff injury.
  • Diseases that increase risk of frozen shoulder include; diabetes, thyroid problems, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis or Parkinson’s disease.
  • It affects women more than men, but only slightly.

How can I help my frozen shoulder right now?

  • Take a non steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killer, such as Ibuprofen, to reduce the swelling around the joint.
  • Keep moving. It’s tempting to not try and move your shoulder at all, but try and keep the area mobile with gentle reaching and stretching.
  • Put a hot water bottle on the area to relax your muscles and encourage blood flow to the area. Later, put an ice pack on the area to reduce swelling.
  • Sleep with a pillow in-between your arm and your chest, this may remove discomfort while you are sleeping.

How can physiotherapy help my frozen shoulder?

Physiotherapy treatment can help speed up the recovery process and reduce pain in your shoulder, meaning you can get your daily activities back to normal (in the case of frozen shoulder, this could be something as mundane as sleeping in your preferred position or getting dressed).

As there are many different causes for frozen shoulder, it’s important to get a thorough diagnosis, which a physiotherapist can provide.

At Sheffield Physiotherapy, we may recommend:

  • Physiotherapy exercises that will help your shoulder heal and regain strength and movement.
  • PAMM therapy a treatment performed with a specialist handset that allows the physiotherapist to manipulate the joint in a way that can’t be done by hand alone. PAMM therapy helps to encourage the body to heal and restores movement.
  • Massage therapy can help to relieve pain, relax tension in the area and make the shoulder joint feel more fluid and mobile.
  • Neil Asher Technique. A trained practitioner will use this technique to release trigger points which can cause pain and restrict movement.
  • Acupuncture can be useful particularly during the early often very painful first stage.

Frozen shoulder is a common condition which can last a long time. If you think you may be suffering from frozen shoulder, or another type of shoulder pain, don’t wait for it to go away on it’s own. Call 0114 268 6677 to book an appointment with a physiotherapist or email us on info@sheffieldphysiotherapy.co.uk.

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The Author

Lewis Payne

Lewis graduated from The University of Nottingham in 2013 with a First Class Honours in Physiotherapy, worked as Sheffield F.C.’s first team Physiotherapist, and now runs a leading-edge private clinic in Sheffield. With over ten years of experience, he specialises in manual therapy, advanced technological treatments, and exercise-based approaches, focusing on spinal and joint conditions, sports injuries, and specifically complex spinal issues like disc pathology and scoliosis. Lewis leads in IDD Therapy, performing over 6000 treatments, offers MRI referrals and reviews, and employs a holistic treatment philosophy viewing the body as a Tensegrity structure. He excels in postural analysis, soft tissue release techniques, and prescribes biomechanical corrective exercises to enhance natural movement.