June 28


What is a ‘Frozen Shoulder’ and How to Treat It

By Gabriela

June 28, 2022

Been feeling really stiff lately? Been having difficulty reaching behind the back or doing any other daily activities? Does the shoulder hurt, particularly during the nighttime when trying to sleep?

Then it may be the common condition known as ‘Mayo Clinic’.

Its official name is adhesive capsulitis, and if people want to learn more about it, including what the treatment options are, then read on.

What Is It?

As its name might suggest, it’s a condition that causes stiffness and pain in one’s shoulder joint. And, as time passes, one’s ability to properly move their shoulder decreases, up to the point where their shoulder may become so stiff, that it is practically ‘frozen’, hence the name.

But keep in mind that, despite certain similarities, a frozen shoulder is not the same thing as arthritis. Much like one’s hip joint, the shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket type of joint. It is covered by a capsule of ligaments.

When the shoulder becomes frozen, it also means that these ligaments become tight and swell. This makes it very difficult (or even downright impossible) for the affected individual to move their shoulder accordingly.

Who’s At Risk?

There are plenty of groups of people who may have a higher chance of getting a frozen shoulder. One of these groups is the age group, namely those between forty and sixty years of age.

When it comes to gender, statistics show that this occurs more often in women than in men.

Additionally, those who are at a higher risk are those who have had the following:

  • Broken arm;
  • Rotator cuff injury;
  • Shoulder injury;
  • Stroke;
  • Surgery.

There are certain medical conditions that may also bring about the occurrence of frozen shoulder, such as:

  • Thyroid disease (whether overactive or underactive thyroid);
  • Diabetes;
  • Tuberculosis;
  • Heart conditions;
  • Hormonal changes;
  • Parkinson’s disease.

Being diabetic may also increase one’s chances. This is because, as most experts believe, uncontrolled blood sugars may bring about changes in connective tissue, which automatically boosts one’s chances of this painful, uncomfortable condition.

According to the ADA (American Diabetes Association), about 10 to 20% of those already diagnosed with the condition will get it. And unfortunately, symptoms can be rather severe in this case.

But Which Symptoms?

Frozen shoulder symptoms are usually said to appear in three stages or phases. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Painful (freezing) stage – Any movement of the shoulder causes pain, and people should notice that the range of motion is limited. There may also be muscle spasms involved. This stage may last from about 6 weeks to 9 months.

Frozen stage – The pain may subside, but the shoulder will still feel very stiff. This stage can last from about 4 to 6 months.

Thawing Stage – Motion range slowly but surely improves. This stage can last from about 6 months to 2 years.

The stiffness and pain one experiences from this condition can be slightly annoying at first.

But over time, one will find that it can have a serious effect on one’s ability to perform simple, daily tasks, such as getting dressed, taking a shower, working, or even reaching over one’s head.

This is particularly bad if people happen to have the condition and need to inject their arm with insulin, as the stiffness will make performing this procedure nearly impossible. Furthermore, a frozen shoulder, even once it has fully gone, can recur at any time.

This is not always the case, but it can happen. And, while it only affects one shoulder most of the time, it may affect the other one as well.

How Is It Diagnosed?

If people have noticed any of the symptoms we’ve already mentioned above, then they should consult with their doctor.

After all, the sooner one acts, the more chances one has to minimize the condition and hinder it from getting worse.

A doctor will most likely perform a physical exam and ask people to perform certain movements in order to properly measure their motion range.

If there is any doubt involving the diagnosis, then people may need to do an imaging test, such as an MRI or an x-ray. This is in order to rule out any other conditions.

How Is It Treated?

There are some cases where this condition may resolve itself (albeit the pain and stiffness are still present), but for most situations, doctors recommend a specific course of treatment.

This goes particularly if the patient’s symptoms are more severe than usual.

There are multiple treatments to consider, let us take a closer look at all of them, one by one.

Physical therapy – Or PT for short. It can greatly help in regaining the former range of motion. The exact treatment depends on the severity of the individual’s symptoms. PT may use ultrasound, heat, ice, or certain other combinations.

One may also need to perform specific exercises at home. It may take several weeks (or possibly even months) for there to be any noticeable improvement.

Medication – there are some over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen, which can help in both lessening the pain and reducing inflammation.

In some individual cases, a doctor may prescribe stronger pain relievers to get the job done.

Other drugs may also prove useful, such as medicine which will help people sleep, or a muscle relaxer. Some individuals need a cortisone shot in their shoulder joints.

These shots are only temporary in their relieving effect, but patients have reported much-needed symptom relief.

But keep in mind that this is a steroid, and thus, it may very well have an increasing effect on blood glucose levels.

Always consult with a healthcare provider or a medical professional on how to tweak any diabetes medicine.

Surgery – this step is the one people take after about a year of unsuccessful PT or drug treatment. If people find that both simply aren’t doing the trick.

Doctors usually suggest shoulder manipulation in these situations, but there are other options out there.

Surgical procedures are usually done to remove the scar tissue and adhesions in one’s shoulder joint. PT is usually performed after such surgery.

Can We Prevent It?

While there is no sure way of preventing this condition from occurring, people may need to consult with their doctor about the steps they can take and the exercises they can perform as a type of potential preventive measure. People can check out some frozen shoulder exercises here.

And in case people have the condition, talk with a professional healthcare team or any other expert about the best ways of keeping blood sugar levels in check, which should also keep the occurrence of ‘frozen shoulder’ at bay. We hope people find this information useful.


  • Gabriela

    Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Diabetes Health Page, Fitness trainer and instructor has dedicated her career to educating and informing people for over 10 years. As one of the most passionate diabetes advocates, Gabi has worked tirelessly to ensure that those people receive the education and support they need to properly manage their diabetes and achieve their health, fitness and weight loss goals.

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