What is a frozen shoulder?

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A frozen shoulder is characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The symptoms usually worsen in a gradual manner over several months or years. An individual will experience shoulder pain for the initial 2-9 months that can be intense and followed by increasing rigidity.

The rigidity can affect the ability of the individual to perform daily activities. In severe cases, the individual might not be able to move the affected shoulder. The condition can improve over time, but it can take several years.

When to consult a doctor

A doctor should be consulted if the individual experiences continuous shoulder pain that reduces movement. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the more likely for treatment to prevent lasting pain and stiffness.

Frozen shoulder
The rigidity can affect the ability of the individual to perform daily activities.

Possible causes

Frozen shoulder develops if the flexible tissue surrounding the shoulder joint or capsule becomes swollen and thickened. It is not yet fully understood why this occur. There are also factors that increases the risk for developing the condition such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Previous injury or surgery to the shoulder
  • Dupuytren’s contracture – development of small-sized lumps of dense tissue in the fingers and hands
  • Other health conditions such as stroke and heart disease


In most cases, a frozen shoulder usually settles even without treatment. Nevertheless, proper treatment can minimize pain and improve movement in the joint until it heals.

The form of treatment for the individual usually depends on the severity of the frozen shoulder and how far it has progressed. The usual treatment options include the following:

  • Pain medications
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Exercises for the shoulder
  • Physiotherapy

In case the symptoms do not seem to improve after 6 months, surgical intervention might be recommended.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on frozen shoulder is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage joint and muscle injuries including a frozen shoulder, register for a first aid and CPR course with Victoria First Aid.

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