Frozen Shoulder

recovering from difficult diagnosis


Physical therapy treatment of frozen shoulder can be incredibly beneficial. The old advice of “it will get better on it’s own,” does not suffice anymore. From various research articles published in the past 5 years, we see that the natural history of Adhesive Capsulitis (AC) does not improve fully unless a rigorous range of motion and strengthening program is employed.

Adhesive capsulitis, more commonly known as frozen shoulder is a particularly bothersome condition where the shoulder progressively loses range of motion and becomes increasingly painful to move it. Middle aged women are ~ 3x as likely to experience this as men (sorry ladies), and the timeline of recovery is typically 12-18 months, sometimes more, sometimes less. It’s important to note that just because you have a stiff shoulder this does not mean that you have a frozen shoulder. Some individuals, particularly after surgery, have very stiff shoulders as they have either been in a sling, or have not been moving the joint as much. This leads to normal stiffness and with graduated movement, typically improves.

A true frozen shoulder does not get better quickly and is often quite painful in the beginning stages (I know, kind of crummy…). As time goes on, the joint becomes less painful, and range of motion slowly improves. It’s important to continue a normal exercise routine while dealing with this, modifying exercises as needed. While not fun to deal with, if you go through with physical therapy, are diligent with your exercises, and stay optimistic, it will improve!

What to expect during therapy for this condition:

1. Range of motion of the shoulder and spine.
2. Shoulder strengthening
3. Self-management strategies

Since Adhesive Capsulitis typically lasts 12-18 months before full range of motion is restored, it is important for the patient (you) to learn and commit to self-management strategies which include stretching and strengthening among other things.

Need help with your shoulder? We’ll get you on the right path! Give us a call.

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