Shoulder Pain Relief: Defrosting Your Frozen Shoulder

Amanda Duboys, OT and Hand Therapist, ranging a patient’s shoulder.


Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is stiffness and pain that causes a limited range of motion in the shoulder.

Frozen shoulder can occur after an injury, from diseases such as diabetes or stroke, and it can occur from overuse of the shoulder.


“Frozen shoulder is when the soft tissue around the shoulder joint stiffens and tightens up,” said Amanda Duboys, OT and Certified Hand Therapist at Bacharach’s Linwood location. “Next scar tissue forms which makes shoulder movement very painful and difficult. The injury can come on slowly but the recovery time could be a year or more.”


When treating frozen shoulder, occupational therapists use a number of different treatment methods including: moist heat, gentle stretching, icing and home exercise programs. The treatments are designed to reduce pain and increase mobility. There are some cases of frozen shoulder that require surgery in order to heal, but surgery is usually a last resort.


Three Stages to Frozen Shoulder


“There are three stages to frozen shoulder,” said Amanda. “The first is the freezing phase, which is when the range of motion becomes limited and there is pain with most movements of the shoulder; the second is the frozen stage, where there is very little function in the shoulder but the pain has receded; the final stage is the thawing, which is when the shoulder’s range of motion improves.”


Frozen shoulder usually affects people between ages 40 to 70, and it generally affects more women than men.


“Individuals with frozen shoulder usually seek out therapy for treatment,” said Amanda. “Sometimes frozen shoulder can be hard to prevent—especially if it is the result of another injury or surgery.  Those who have had an injury or surgery to the shoulder should consult with their doctor and therapist to learn exercises to maintain the range of motion in their shoulder joint to prevent frozen shoulder.”


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