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Frozen Shoulder

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

A frozen shoulder is a condition which affects the shoulder joint capsule. The capsule is a membrane which surrounds the shoulder joint and allows your arm to move freely.

With a frozen shoulder, the capsule becomes thickened, tight, and irritated. This can result in significant reduction in movement and pain making it difficult to perform normal tasks like brushing your hair or dressing.

It can also disturb your sleep and impact on other daily tasks.

Because it affects the joint capsule, it is also known by other names such as “adhesive capsulitis”.

How long does it last?

Stage 1 - 2 to 9 Months​

  • Very painful
  • Loss of Movement
  • Constant Pain
  • Disturbed sleep

Stage 2 - 4 to 12 Months

  • Pain eases
  • Stiffness remains
  • Pain only at the end of the available range

Stage 3 - 12 to 42 Months

  • Movement improves
  • Pain continues to reduce

What causes a Frozen Shoulder?

The exact cause of a frozen shoulder is not always known and is still not fully understood, however there are factors that increase your risk of developing it:

  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid gland problems
  • Previous stroke
  • Previous heart attack
  • Dupuytrens contracture
  • Prolonged immobilisation of the shoulder after surgery
  • Previous trauma to the shoulder (traumatic onset)

It is more common in women than men and between the ages of 45-60.

What can I do to help myself?

Stay Positive

This is a common problem that usually resolves over time (see times suggested above).

Modify Activities

Reduce or change any specific activities that aggravate your symptoms but do not stop completely.

Regular Pain Relief (Paracetamol or Ibuprofen)

Check with a pharmacist for safety if unsure. If stronger pain relief is required please discuss this with your GP.

Use Heat or Ice Packs.

Apply this to the shoulder to help ease the pain (wrap the pack in a towel and check the skin regularly for signs of burns).

What else can I do?

You can try starting with some common exercises for frozen shoulder. In some cases you don’t need to see a physiotherapist. However if you feel the pain is not manageable and the symptoms are causing a significant impact on your ability to perform daily tasks including work, you may benefit from our input.



Frozen Shoulder – Advanced


Frozen Shoulder – Early


Frozen Shoulder – Mid

Do I need an x-ray or scan?

In most cases, no. A good history and physical examination of your shoulder alone provides enough information to diagnose your problem. Scans and x-rays are not always useful for diagnosing shoulder pain. While a scan or x-ray may provide information it rarely alters the treatment plan. 

Imaging findings are very poorly linked with pain and often people with no pain have very similar findings on their scans/x-rays to those that do. X-rays and scans can help for a small number of people in certain situations and will be recommended by a healthcare professional if required.

What about a steroid injection?

A steroid injection may be considered to help control the pain in some circumstances. The risks and benefits would be discussed with your Physiotherapist or GP and is not always an appropriate option for all patients.

Get advice from 111 now if:

  • the pain is sudden or extremely severe
  • you cannot move your arm
  • your arm or shoulder has changed shape or is badly swollen
  • you have severe pins and needles that do not go away
  • your arm or shoulder is hot or cold to touch
  • the pain is severe and started after an injury or accident, like a fall
  • hurts when you exercise but goes away when your rest
  • you are experiencing chest pain/tightness with your shoulder pain

111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.

Go to or call 111.

If your shoulder pain persists, or you are not sure what to do, you can self-refer to see a local physiotherapist who can help you with your problem.

Physiotherapy self-referral

If you are an NHS patient registered to a qualifying GP surgery, you can now refer yourself directly for MSK physiotherapy without needing an appointment at your GP practice.

You must be aged 16 or over and registered with a Wakefield GP.

Call 01924 224497 or complete the online form by clicking the link below.