Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

Health In The Bay Frozen ShoulderSigns/Symptoms

  • Frozen shoulder is characterised by stiffness and restriction of movement leading to a high degree of shoulder joint immobilisation (passive and active movements).
  • In most cases there is also some localised pain that can also cause secondary pain in the neck and trapezius muscle.
  • Patients are generally unable to raise their arm above 45 degrees and often any movement that involves external shoulder rotation inhibits pain.
  • Pain at night is often more severe, and a secondary side effect of frozen shoulder is insomnia.
  • It is most common over the age of 40 and more prevalent in woman.
  • Symptoms can often last from 5 months to 3 years, but healing time can be reduced with appropriate therapy, stretching and preventative techniques.



  • It is most commonly caused by thickening and contraction of the joint capsule – the connective tissue around the bony structures of the shoulder joint. There can also be a lack of synovial fluid in the joint
  • Can be caused by injury, however, it may also be a secondary symptom of thyroid, metabolic disease, stroke and auto-immune disease. Higher incidence in smokers. In many cases, there is no recognisable cause.
  • In Eastern medicine – deficient cases, there is a lack of nourishment (Ying Qi), leading to tendon/muscular weakness. In excess cases, wind/cold/damp/injury penetrates the shoulder joint causing local Qi/Blood stagnation in the channels (often Colon/Small Intestine channels). Can also include Gall Bladder, Lung, Triple Heater and Pericardium channels.



  • Aims to reduce pain, increase recovery time, increase range of movement and prevent worsening of symptoms.
  • Western medicine treatment aims to reduce pain and inflammation with anti-inflammatory drugs, and if particularly severe, steroid injections are used. Chronic painful issues are sometimes treated with surgery.
  • The most effective method of recovery is to continue a full range of movement within the joint to prevent further joint stiffness and muscle loss/weakness. Therefore, physical therapy generally involves range-of-motion exercises. Functional exercises should include moving the diseased shoulder in abduction, adduction, internal rotation and external rotation – morning and night.
  • Other therapies that can be effective are massage, acupuncture, herbal linaments and stretching. Common acupuncture points include SI9,10, LI4, 11, 14, 15.