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Bursitis

Frozen shoulder is a condition where your shoulder remains painful and stiff for along time (for months, or even years). It is expected to go away on its own, though this can take from 1-3 years.

What is frozen shoulder?

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint comprising the upper arm bone (humerus) and shoulder blade (scapula).

The shoulder joint is surrounded by strong tissue called the ‘shoulder capsule’. In the case of frozen shoulder, your shoulder capsule becomes tight and stiff.

What are the symptoms of frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder develops over time, and in three stages:

  1. Freezing – you find it more difficult and painful to move your shoulder
  2. Frozen – your shoulder gets more stiff, although it’s less painful
  3. Thawing – you start to find it easier to use your shoulder

Any of the above stages can last for several months.

What causes frozen shoulder?

There’s no clear cause of frozen shoulder. However, there are some risk factors that make you more likely to get it:

  • Being over 40 –those aged over 40 and women are more likely to get frozen shoulder
  • Certain illnesses – including overactive or underactive thyroid, diabetes and Parkinson’s
  • Previous rotator cuff injury or broken arm
  • Recovering from arm surgery or a stroke

How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, including details of any prior injuries, alongside information about the exercise you do. They will ask you to move your shoulder in certain ways while they look for any problems in movement (this tests your active range of motion) and will then move your shoulder for you (testing your passive range of motion).

In some instances, your doctor may take an x-ray or MRI scan to try to get a better idea of whether you have frozen shoulder or another potential condition.

How is frozen shoulder treated?

Your doctor will recommend some (or all) of the following:

  • Physical therapy (this usually means you meet with a physical therapist once to learn some gentle movement exercises, and can then continue with the exercises on your own at home to strengthen your shoulder muscles)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs and medications
  • Rest
  • Steroid injections into your shoulder (in some cases)
  • Joint distention treatment – your doctor injects sterile water into your shoulder to help improve your range of movement

If the above treatments don’t work, in very rare instances you might need surgery. You will be advised on the surgery that is best for you.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr Addie Majed  ›

Mr Majed is an established Shoulder and Elbow specialist at King Edward VII’s Hospital.

Find your specialist in frozen shoulder at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have frozen shoulder and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading shoulder specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Ms Susan Alexander  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 2) more
Mr Toby Baring  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 5) more
Mr David Butt  ›
Special interests include:
Sports injuries (+ 4) more
Mr Brian Cohen  ›
Special interests include:
Scaphoid fractures (+ 18) more
Mr Addie Majed  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 4) more
Mr Peter Reilly  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 1) more
Mr Andrew Sankey  ›
Special interests include:
Frozen shoulder (+ 13) more
Mr Andrew Wallace  ›
Special interests include:
Sports injuries (+ 3) more
Mr James White  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 5) more

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