Frozen shoulder – What is it?

After a shoulder or arm injury, you may have worn a sling or have your arm in a cast. The reason for this being that the area needs stabilization and help to receive adequate blood supply for it to heal.

While keeping the area immobile is necessary for healing, one of the downfalls of this is that it can cause frozen shoulder also known as adhesive capsulitis!

What is frozen shoulder?

In this condition, the shoulder capsule thickens and becomes stiff and tight. Thick bands of tissue, also known as adhesions, develop, making the shoulder even more difficult to move.

The reason it is called “frozen” shoulder is because the more pain that is felt, the less likely the shoulder will be used; hence it is frozen in its position!

Symptoms of frozen shoulder

Since the tissues tighten around the capsule, it can be difficult to move the arm up and down or over your head.

In most cases people have quite a tough time raising their arm and in severe cases, some people can hardly raise their arms at all.

In addition to restricted movement, you may feel a dull ache in your outer shoulder. This pain tends to get worse in chilly weather and in the evenings.

If you attempt certain movements, the arm may spasm, cramp and cause severe pain.

This condition usually develops slowly in three key stages:

  • Freezing stage

Any movement of the shoulder causes pain, and the shoulder’s ability to move becomes limited. This stage can last from 2 to 9 months.

  • Frozen stage

The pain may lessen during this stage; however, the shoulder becomes stiffer. Using it becomes more difficult. This stage can last from 4 to 12 months.

  • Thawing stage

The shoulder’s ability to move begins to improve. This stage can last from 5 to 24 months.


The causes of this shoulder complaint are not clear or fully understood. There doesn’t seem to be any connection to arm dominance or occupation.

Having said that, a few factors may put you more at risk for developing this condition:

  • Age – most commonly between the ages of 40 – 60 years old
  • Gender – seems to be more common in women than men
  • Recent shoulder injury – any shoulder injury or surgery that results in the need to keep the shoulder from moving, such as a fracture of the shoulder blade, collarbone or upper arm and rotator cuff tears. In fact, having patients move their shoulders soon after injury or surgery is one measure prescribed to prevent frozen shoulder.
  • Diabetes – The reason for this is not known, however frozen shoulder occurs much more often in people with diabetes. In addition, they tend to have a greater degree of stiffness that continues for a longer period of time.
  • Other diseases – some other medical conditions associated with this condition include underactive thyroid, overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiac disease.

5 Frozen shoulder facts:

  1. The peak age for getting frozen shoulder is 56!
  2. People with diabetes have a 10-20% risk of developing the condition!
  3. It can take anything from 1 – 3 years to resolve!
  4. It is estimated to affect 2 -5 % of the population!
  5. It was first described in 1872 as peri-arthritis. Why exactly it occurs still remains uncertain!

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or .