Frozen Shoulder

Young woman with frozen shoulder

What Is Frozen Shoulder?

As the name implies, frozen shoulder is a painful condition that restricts motion in the shoulder joint. The bones, ligaments, and tendons that make up your shoulder joint are encased in a capsule of connective tissue. When this capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, it restricts movement, resulting in frozen shoulder. For some people, the pain worsens at night, which can disrupt normal sleep patterns.

The most common symptoms are:

  • A dull, aching pain in the shoulder.
  • Limited movement of the shoulder.
  • Difficulty performing activities like brushing your hair or putting on shirts or bras. A common problem for people with diabetes.
  • Pain when trying to sleep on the affected shoulder.


The most common complaint about frozen shoulder is pain. However, many conditions can cause shoulder pain, such as rotator cuff issues. In fact, many cases of frozen shoulder are misdiagnosed as rotator cuff tears. So it is important to see a practitioner or physician who is experienced with frozen shoulder to ensure a proper diagnosis.

Generally, frozen shoulder — also called adhesive capsulitis — develops gradually in three distinct stages:

  1. The painful stage, when there is pain with any movement of your shoulder and its range of motion starts to become limited. This typically lasts two to three months.
  2. The frozen stage is when the pain may begin to ease. However, your shoulder becomes stiffer and your range of motion decreases notably. This stage can last up to six months.
  3. The thawing stage begins when the range of motion in your shoulder starts to improve. This can last a year or more.

If you are suffering from dizziness, you could fall and be afflicted with more injuries, so listen to the following advice:

  • Lie down for a couple of minutes to allow blood to flow to your brain.
  • Get bed rest, as dizziness may arise as a symptom of a viral illness or a cold or flu.
  • Never operate equipment, drive a vehicle, or climb a ladder.
  • Avoid substances like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, as they can affect your circulation.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, fruit juice mixed with water, weak tea, and rehydration drinks to avoid dehydration.

In most cases, frozen shoulder will work its way through the stages, then completely resolve within a year or two.


The medical community understands how frozen shoulder happens, but as of now there is no definitive answer to why it occurs. However, it is known that some people apparently have a higher likelihood of developing the condition. These risk factors include:

  • Limited mobility, especially when recovering from a medical condition or procedure that affects the mobility of your shoulder, such as a:
    • Rotator cuff injury.
    • Broken arm.
    • Stroke.
    • Surgery.
  • Age: Frozen shoulder most commonly affects individuals 40 to 60 years old.
  • Gender: The condition is much more common in women than in men, especially postmenopausal women.
  • Endocrine disorders, including:
    • Diabetes. According to statistics, 10 to 20 percent of diabetics — of all races and genders — will suffer from frozen shoulder, though the reason for this remains unknown.
    • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
    • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
  • Systemic conditions, like:
    • Cardiovascular disease.
    • Tuberculosis.
    • Parkinson’s disease.


Since there is no immediate cure for frozen shoulder, most treatments are designed to ease discomfort and help regain movement. For those who don’t want to have steroid injections or undergo surgery to loosen the joint capsule so it can move more freely, chiropractic treatments offer a more holistic and less invasive approach.

Your family chiropractic practitioner may design a plan that includes hands-on treatment as well as an exercise and/or stretching regimen.

Chiropractic treatments focus on the root of the problem. The most important aspect of speeding recovery from a frozen shoulder is to focus on improving range of motion in the joint, so stretching the shoulder capsule is an important therapy. However, it is important to work with an experienced therapist to learn how to properly stretch. Heat can help with the process, so you may want to apply moist heat to the shoulder or take a hot shower before stretching. Applying ice after stretching can help reduce inflammation and also relieve pain.

Other common chiropractic treatments include electrical stimulation to stimulate the release of pain-inhibiting endorphins and acupuncture, which has also proved effective among many patients. It is also believed that keeping your body in alignment may help prevent a recurrence of frozen shoulder.

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