Frozen shoulder

What is a frozen shoulder?

A frozen shoulder is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder and hence a loss of mobility.

The shoulder joint capsule has ligaments that hold the shoulder bones together; when this capsule becomes inflamed, the bones are not able to move freely in the joint, causing a stiffened, frozen shoulder.


Typically, frozen shoulder treatments help to restore mobility and the functioning of the shoulder after one year; even without treatment, it may improve after two years.

In cases that are treated by surgery, this should be followed with physical therapy for a few weeks or months to prevent the frozen shoulder from returning.

Frozen shoulder symptoms:

The main symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain, stiffness, and decreased joint mobility.

Medical tests for frozen shoulders:

To make a diagnosis of frozen shoulder, the specialist will ask the patient about their symptoms, examine the shoulder, and they may also require x-rays or, less often, an MRI scan.

What causes a frozen shoulder?

There are no specific causes of a frozen shoulder, although there are some risk factors:

  • Shoulder injury and/or surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Hormone changes

Can a frozen shoulder be prevented?

Generally, a frozen shoulder cannot be prevented, however, if you have suffered a shoulder injury or have recently had shoulder surgery, you should practise certain exercises to keep the joint mobile and avoid stiffening. If your shoulder does become stiff, you should see a specialist as soon as possible.

Frozen shoulder treatments:

Frozen shoulders can be treated with NSAIDs and steroid injections, in addition to physical therapy. It may take a few weeks to see progress, and a few months to achieve a full recovery.

Frozen shoulder surgery is recommended when non-surgical treatment is not effective. In these cases, it is performed by a shoulder arthroscopy, which is done under anaesthesia.

Which specialist treats frozen shoulder?

Orthopaedic surgeons treat cases of frozen shoulder.