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The Role of Physical Therapy in Overcoming Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

Adhesive capsultis, colloquially called “frozen shoulder”, is a shoulder condition that causes significant loss in shoulder function and mobility.

Frozen shoulder is a unique diagnosis in that it can result from injury, but in some cases no mechanism of injury occurs prior to its onset. 

When someone sustains an injury such as shoulder impingement syndrome, a rotator cuff tear, or a shoulder dislocation the body and minds natural protective mechanism is to protect the area by tightening the muscles and limiting the use and movement of the arm. This then causes the joint capsule itself to become tight and stiff resulting in frozen shoulder.

When there is no mechanism of injury, pre-existing risk factors can increase your risk of spontaeously getting frozen shoulder. These include but are not limited to: old injury in the past, being female, or a diagnosis of diabetes.

Commoin symptoms of a frozen shoulder include: limited capsular range of motion of shoulder, pain, cracking/popping, and weakness.

There are 3 main phases with a frozen shoulder

  1. Freezing: when the shoulder starts to become stiff and slightly painful
  2. Frozen: limited range of motion and pain
  3. Thawing: when the shoulder starts to loosen up and movement begins to improve.

Frozen shoulder can be present for a substantial around of time, usually between 1-2 years. 

Physical therapy is one of the most effective treatments for a frozen shoulder with treatment designed to impove range of motion, muscular tightness, joint mobility, and strengthening.

Other options include: injections and surgical intervention as a last resort.

In summary, frozen shoulder is a self-limiting condition which is chronic in nature and can result from either an injury or no injury at all. There are 3 phases of a frozen shoulder with duration of symptoms for most individuals lasting 1-2 years. Physical Therapy is a great treatment option for frozen shoulder before trying more invasive options such as injections or surgery.

Contact Bailey Physical Therapy and Wellness if you are concerned you may have frozen shoulder!


Dr. Kaitlin Bailey

PT, DPT, FMS, Cert.DN, Owner and Founder

We help active individuals and athletes conquer pain, overcome injury, and return to the activities they love through individualized, one-on-one, physical therapy and wellness services provided by a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

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