Frozen Shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis is commonly known as frozen shoulder syndrome, which is characterised by a reduction of movement in the shoulder. The condition feels as if an adhesive is involved, with the shoulder joint seeming glued in one position. It can be triggered by an impact in a sports activity, though it is rarely encountered in people below the age of 40.


Initial symptoms include inflammation and aching of the shoulder joint with the area gradually stiffening, in what is often described as the painful or freezing phase. Usually only one shoulder is affected, and pain may be exacerbated when lying on the injured side. The symptoms might worsen over time. This is followed by the stiffening or frozen phase, when the shoulder feels firmly stuck in place while the pain remains the same. This greatly impedes your ability to carry out everyday tasks and activities. The attendant muscles may be noticeably weakened at this stage due to difficulty using the arm.

The final thawing phase is a steady process of recovery. Movement should increase and pains diminish as the shoulder becomes 'unstuck'. Sometimes the pain temporarily spikes again as the rigidity in the shoulder lessens. Each phase of the injury lasts approximately 4 months, though this varies from case to case and in rare instances these phases can last for up to a year each.


In sport a frozen shoulder can arise as the result of an impact to the area. Sports with the potential to cause the injury include contact sports such as rugby or hockey, and activities with a risk of falling accidents like cycling or horse riding. Repetitive bad posture can also contribute to the condition over time, affecting a ligament in the shoulder. If you are recovering from a previous injury such as a shoulder fracture, and have been immobile for a long period, this may lead to a frozen shoulder.

The injury regularly occurs without an identifiable cause. There is however a link between diabetes and frozen shoulders, and women are also more likely to suffer from the injury than men.

Medical Treatment

See a doctor as soon as possible for the best chance of a speedy recovery. However, the initial 'freezing' phase proves difficult to treat and may need to be endured with pain relief before treatment can begin. A doctor will advise on a suitable program of rehabilitation, which may involve cutting down on certain activities while not allowing the shoulder to become dangerously immobile. To this end you should attempt to exercise the joint as long as this does not cause excessive pain. Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to relieve pain and swelling symptoms. It can be helpful to begin physical therapy and regularly ice the area. Steroid injections are sometimes administered, and nerve blocks are effective. Surgery can be required in instances when treatment is unsuccessful.

Recovery Time

Recovery can be slow and depends on the injury, which may last from 1 to 3 years. Rehabilitation therefore requires patience and updates with your doctor.

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