The label frozen shoulder tends to be used to describe any pain and associated restriction of movement in the shoulder joint.  This is a mistake.  The condition more correctly described as adhesive capsulitis, refers very specifically to an inflammatory process within the joint capsule of the shoulder and results in a characteristic restriction in your shoulder range of movement in specific planes of movement.  A true frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, is debilitating, causes extreme pain and can last between 18-24 months.

Diagnosis of a frozen shoulder can be made by a chartered physiotherapist who will observe a characteristic pattern of restriction in your shoulder movement.  Typically, the movement which is affected to a greater degree by a frozen shoulder is reaching your hand behind the small of your back, leading to difficulty pulling up trousers, followed by difficulty raising your arm directly up to the side.  Other restrictions in your shoulder range of movement will be examined by your chartered physiotherapist to confirm the diagnosis.

Pain, weakness or restriction in your shoulder movement more generally should not be described as a frozen shoulder.  There are multiple possible other causes of shoulder pain and restricted range of motion and too often these are described as a frozen shoulder.  The diagnosis has become a catch all term for loss of movement around the shoulder joint.  This is unhelpful and may result in your shoulder condition being incorrectly diagnosed and subsequently getting less than adequate treatment.

My advice:

  • Have your shoulder assessed properly by a Chartered Physiotherapist
  • Have them confirm or otherwise the diagnosis of frozen shoulder
  • Take their advice and get the appropriate treatment