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Thawing the Pain: A Comprehensive Guide to Frozen Shoulder Treatment

Frozen shoulder is a condition characterised by pain, tenderness, and limited mobility in the shoulder joint. It affects approximately 2-5% of the population and can severely impact an individual's daily life. In this blog, we'll explore the various aspects of frozen shoulder pain, non-surgical frozen shoulder treatments, physiotherapy, surgery, and preventative measures. We will provide a comprehensive understanding of this condition and the available frozen shoulder treatment options to help you or your loved ones find relief.


Understanding Frozen Shoulder Pain


Frozen shoulder pain is often experienced as a dull, aching sensation in the shoulder area. It can become more intense during certain movements or at night, making it difficult to sleep. The frozen shoulder pain stems from the inflammation and thickening of the shoulder capsule, which restricts movement and causes discomfort.


The condition typically progresses through three stages, each with varying degrees of pain and stiffness:


  1. Freezing stage: This stage is marked by the gradual onset of pain and a progressive decrease in the range of motion. It can last anywhere from six weeks to nine months.
  2. Frozen stage: During this stage, pain may begin to decrease, but the stiffness and limited range of motion persist. This stage can last from four months to a year.
  3. Thawing stage: Gradual improvement in the range of motion and a decrease in stiffness occur during this stage.


Non-Surgical Frozen Shoulder Treatment Options


For many individuals, non-surgical frozen shoulder treatment can effectively manage frozen shoulder symptoms. These frozen shoulder treatment include:


  1. Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce pain. Your healthcare provider may also recommend stronger prescription medications or corticosteroid injections in more severe cases.
  2. Physiotherapy: A physiotherapist can provide a personalised exercise program to help improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion in the shoulder. Physiotherapy exercises may include stretching, strengthening, and range of motion activities.
  3. Lifestyle modifications: Making adjustments to your daily activities can help manage frozen shoulder symptoms. This includes avoiding movements that cause pain, using a heating pad or ice pack for relief, and practising good posture to minimise stress on the shoulder joint.


Deep Dive into Frozen Shoulder Physiotherapy


Frozen shoulder physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the non-surgical frozen shoulder treatment. Its goals are to decrease pain, improve range of motion, and restore shoulder function. Some of the benefits of frozen shoulder physiotherapy include:


  • Reducing pain and inflammation
  • Increasing flexibility and mobility in the shoulder joint
  • Strengthening the muscles around the shoulder
  • Preventing further injury and complications


There are several physiotherapy techniques that can be employed to treat frozen shoulder, such as:


  1. Passive stretching: The physiotherapist gently moves your shoulder through its range of motion without your assistance. This helps to improve flexibility and decrease stiffness.
  2. Active stretching: You perform shoulder stretches under the guidance of the physiotherapist, who may provide resistance or support to ensure proper technique.
  3. Strengthening exercises: These exercises target the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, helping to provide support and stability.
  4. Range of motion exercises: These activities focus on improving the shoulder's mobility and function.


Physiotherapy sessions usually occur 2-3 times per week, with the duration and frequency dependent on the severity of your frozen shoulder. Patients typically notice improvements within 4-6 weeks of consistent physiotherapy.


When is Frozen Shoulder Surgery Necessary?


Frozen shoulder surgery is generally considered as a last resort when non-surgical treatments fail to provide sufficient relief. It's typically recommended for individuals who have severe, persistent pain and limited mobility, even after several months of conservative treatments.


There are two types of surgery for frozen shoulder:


  1. Arthroscopic capsular release: This is a minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon inserts a small camera (arthroscope) into the shoulder joint. Using special tools, they cut through the tight portions of the shoulder capsule to increase range of motion.
  2. Manipulation under anaesthesia: During this process, the patient is put under general anaesthesia, and the surgeon forcefully moves the shoulder joint to break up the adhesions that restrict movement.


Both procedures are typically followed by a comprehensive physiotherapy program to restore mobility and prevent recurrence of the condition.


Recovery Process Post Frozen Shoulder Surgery


Recovery from frozen shoulder surgery can vary depending on the individual's overall health and the specific procedure performed. Generally, patients can expect to return to their normal activities within 1-2 months. However, full recovery of shoulder strength and mobility may take up to six months.


Physiotherapy is a critical component of the recovery process. Post-surgical physiotherapy sessions focus on reducing pain, preventing stiffness, and restoring range of motion. Patients may initially find these exercises challenging, but with time and consistency, they should see improvements.


Managing pain post-surgery often involves a combination of medications, ice, rest, and gentle movement. It's essential to follow your healthcare provider's instructions for pain management to ensure a smooth recovery.


Preventing Frozen Shoulder


While it's not always possible to prevent frozen shoulder, there are various measures you can take to reduce your risk:


  1. Regular exercise: Keeping your shoulder joints active can help maintain their flexibility and strength. Focus on exercises that promote shoulder mobility, such as arm circles, wall walks, and pendulum stretches.
  2. Manage underlying conditions: Conditions like diabetes and heart disease can increase your risk of developing frozen shoulders. Regular check-ups and proper management of these conditions can help prevent frozen shoulders.
  3. Post-injury care: If you've injured your shoulder or undergone shoulder surgery, following a prescribed physiotherapy program can prevent the development of a frozen shoulder.




Frozen shoulder can be a debilitating condition, but with a proper understanding and a comprehensive approach to treatment, it can be managed effectively. Whether through pain management, physiotherapy, or surgery, there are numerous options available to help restore shoulder function and quality of life. Remember, it's important to consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs.


Medanta Medical Team
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