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Frozen Shoulder - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Frozen Shoulder - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint is a hallmark symptom of frozen shoulder. Today, our Orleans physiotherapists explain how physiotherapy can help treat this condition. 

What is frozen shoulder?

Marked by a progressive onset of symptoms including pain, stiffness and significantly reduced range of motion, frozen shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis. 

While the onset of frozen shoulder is yet to be fully understood, symptoms are thought to occur due to the joint capsule in the shoulder becoming inflamed and growing thicker. 

Having to keep your shoulder still for long periods increases your risk of developing this condition, which may occur after you've had surgery or fractured an arm. Those with diabetes mellitus and other populations are at higher risk. 

Typically, symptoms come on slowly and worsen. With consistent treatment, it may take 1 to 3 years for symptoms to improve, usually with medications, range-of-motion exercises and in rare cases, surgery. 

When it comes to managing and treating symptoms of frozen shoulder, consultation with a qualified health professional such as a physiotherapist will be critical to your recovery. 

What are the signs and symptoms of frozen shoulder?

Most people who suffer from frozen shoulder typically notice it coming on in three stages. For some people, pain worsens in the evening, which can disrupt sleep. 


It's painful to move your shoulder, and your ability to move it becomes limited. This stage may last between 2 and 9 months. 


Pain may lessen, but stiffness sets in and you'll likely find it more difficult to use your shoulder. This stage may last between 4 and 12 months. 


Your ability to move your shoulder starts to improve. This stage may last between 5 and 24 months. 

What's involved in frozen shoulder diagnosis and treatment?


During a physical exam, your doctor or healthcare provider may ask you to move your arm in certain ways to assess your range of motion and to check for pain. 

You may also be asked to relax your muscles while the doctor moves your arm (passive range of motion), since frozen shoulder impacts both active and passive range of motion. 

Though this condition can usually be diagnosed from signs and symptoms alone, imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI or ultrasounds can rule out other issues.


Most methods for treating frozen shoulder involve managing shoulder pain and preserving as much range of motion in the shoulder as possible. This may take a combination of medications, therapy and surgery or other procedures. 

While frozen shoulder can be treated with physiotherapy, you'll likely need to attend sessions for 12 to 18 months (note that some people still have symptoms up to 3 years later). 

Treatment may include a combination of education, managing symptoms, monitoring the disease, manual therapy and exercise therapy. 

How can physiotherapy help with shoulder pain?

Physiotherapy for shoulder pain may involve acupuncture and dry needling treatments. During these procedures, a trained physiotherapist at our Orleans physiotherapy clinic inserts small, sterile, fine needles through the skin into a specific area of the body. 

Acupuncture has been scientifically shown to encourage natural healing, reduce or relieve pain and improve functioning in people with acute or chronic conditions or injuries. 

Dry needling causes the muscle to contract and relax. This releases trigger points in the muscles, increasing flexibility and decreasing pain. 

Our team of physiotherapists at Motion Works Physiotherapy Orleans looks forward to working with you. Your physiotherapist can create an exercise and treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Do you need help treating pain, stiffness and other symptoms of frozen shoulder? We can help develop a treatment and exercise plan to help you recover. Request a consultation today.

We are accepting in-person and virtual appointments.

(613) 714-9722