Frozen Shoulder

Definition: Frozen shoulder is painful, significant restriction of range of motion at the shoulder, most frequently in lifting the arm from the side, and external rotation. It is a condition caused by inflammation.

Causes: Unknown factors, or musculoskeletal trauma such as shoulder injury or surgery, diabetes, impingement syndrome, bursitis, rotator cuff tendonitis or tears, dislocations, osteoarthritis, disuse, or gout.

Signs and Symptoms: Decreased motion of the shoulder over time, with a gradual onset of pain. Sometimes it is started by a major trauma to the shoulder, but often the person cannot recall any cause. The pain is worse at night and the person is unable to lie on that side. The pain is on the outer aspect of the shoulder. Over time, you become unable to perform activities such as reaching over your head or behind you.


Pain is treated with anti-inflammatory medications and sometimes corticosteroid injections. Physiotherapy with hydrotherapy and/or acupuncture to relieve the pain is indicated. Massage therapy for the muscles of the rotator cuff, back and neck is also indicated. Pain-free exercises such as pendulum swing and isometric exercises for the muscles of the shoulder girdle can be assigned in the early stages of treatment. It is also important to maintain the range of motion of the thoracic and cervical spines. As the patient’s condition progresses to the subacute and chronic stages, more active mobilization techniques are used during treatment, and the patient is instructed on more self-mobilization techniques at home. Any risk factors for frozen shoulder, such as diabetes or thyroid problems, should also be addressed.

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1). PubMedHealth.

2). Clinical Massage Therapy: Understanding, Assessing and Treating Over 70 Conditions, Copyright Rattray Ludwig, 2005 Talus Inc.