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Frozen Shoulder

What is it?

Frozen Shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is the gradual and often painful onset of diffuse shoulder pain and stiffness.


Sometimes there can appear to be a trigger for Frozen Shoulder such as an injury or inflammation, but often it is insidious (unknown). It can occur when the shoulder has been immobilised for a long time by injury, surgery or illness. There are also links to development in people with diabetes or other systemic diseases such as Tuberculosis, Parkinson’s Cardiovascular disease or an overactive or underactive thyroid . As such, cautious management of some presentations is important.

Signs & Symptoms

Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly and with 3 phases of presentation. 

  1. Freezing Phase
    Initially, there is often an aching pain that can be sharp. From here motion starts to reduce particularly in external rotation, internal rotation and abduction. This is a progressive process where unfortunately the shoulder becomes stiffer.
  2. Frozen Phase
    During this phase, it will remain stiff and difficult to use, but be less painful.
  3. Thawing Phase
    Gradually during the thawing phase, movement is able to be returned slowly through manual therapy and exercise.


This condition tends to get worse if not treated. Education regarding timeframes and appropriate management in each ‘phase’ of the frozen shoulder process is important – freezing, frozen, or thawing.

Treatment can include the following to maintain and improve range where possible:

  • Pain relief
    • Manual therapy
    • Local treatment
  • Progressive exercises


If a true frozen shoulder is diagnosed, it may take up to 2 years to regain full function but most resolve within 6-9 months. A large majority of people find that symptoms improve with simple exercise and pain control.

If you need help with pain or immobility to get you moving again, or need a tailored exercise program, book in for your treatment now with one of our exercise, physio, or pain specialists via 1300 012 273 or head to our website and book a session at your nearest clinic.