Frozen Shoulder / Chiro & Sports Med
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Frozen shoulder

Home > Conditions > Shoulder > Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, causes pain and stiffness within the shoulder. As time passes, the shoulder becomes very difficult to move. Frozen shoulder occurs in about 2% of the general population. It most often affects people between 40 and 60 years of age and occurs in women more frequently than men.

Anatomy of the shoulder

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint comprised of three bones: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), as well as your collarbone (clavicle). The head of the upper arm bone fits into a shallow socket inside your shoulder blade. Strong connective tissue, referred to as the shoulder capsule, surrounds the joint. To assist your shoulder to move more easily, synovial fluid lubricates the shoulder capsule along with the joint.

Description of a frozen shoulder

In a frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule thickens and becomes tight. Stiff bands of tissue – called adhesions – develop. On most occasions, there’s the less synovial fluid inside the joint. The hallmark sign of this disorder is not being able to move your shoulder – either by yourself or through the help of another person. It develops in three stages:

  • Freezing – In the “freezing” stage, you slowly acquire more and more pain. As the pain worsens, your shoulder loses the ability to move. Freezing typically lasts from 6 weeks to 9 months.
  • Frozen – Painful symptoms may possibly improve throughout this stage, however, the stiffness remains. Over the 4 to 6 months of the “frozen” stage, everyday living can be quite difficult.
  • Thawing – Shoulder motion slowly improves through the “thawing” stage. Complete return to normal or near-normal strength and motion normally takes from 6 months to 2 years.


The causes are not fully understood. There is no clear connection to arm dominance or occupation. A few factors may put you more at risk of developing a frozen shoulder.

  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cardiac disease
  • Immobilization


Pain from a frozen shoulder is generally dull or aching. It is normally worse at the beginning of the onset of the condition when you move your arm. The discomfort is normally located above the outer shoulder area and quite often the upper arm.


  • Frozen shoulder generally improves with time, although it could take as long as 3 years.
  • The main focus of chiropractic treatment is to manage pain and restore motion and strength through physical rehabilitation.
  • Greater than 90% of patients improve with relatively simple chiropractic treatments to regulate pain and restore motion.
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