• Dr Jessica Sammut

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder (otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis) is a painful condition that involves severe restriction of the shoulder joint in all movements. It occurs when fluid within the shoulder joint and the capsule that holds the shoulder joint become thick and stiffen. Why this happens is not fully understood, but we know it is more likely to occur to people that have previously injured their shoulder or suffer with illnesses such as diabetes. It is also more common in middle aged females.


Pain and restriction in the shoulder can be caused by many things and frozen shoulder is often misdiagnosed. Osteopaths are specially trained to diagnose and treat adhesive capsulitis. Using orthopaedic, medical and Osteopathic examination, will be able to identify what is causing your pain and if you have a true frozen shoulder or not.

Your prognosis and treatment will depend on your diagnosis but it should be noted that frozen shoulder can take a long time to heal with or without osteopathic treatment. However, having Osteopathic treatment will aid both your long-term recovery and symptomatic presentation, which can allow you to continue certain activities i.e. work.

There are classically three stages to a frozen shoulder:

1. “the freezing stage” the shoulder starts to ache and feel stiff during certain movements. This can last for a couple of months.

2. “frozen” the shoulder is achy and restricted in all movements. This can last up to one year.

3. “the thawing phase” the shoulder will gradually start to loosen, movement will increase and pain will reduce. To recover from this stage can take anything from a few months to years!

Osteopaths can give you treatment and exercises to keep the shoulder as mobile as possible. They can also prevent other compensatory problems occurring in the body such as pain in the back and neck. Evidence also suggests that having Osteopathic treatment during a frozen shoulder reduces the risk of longer term problems in the shoulder such as muscle weakness and osteoarthritis.

Causes of Shoulder pain The shoulder is a complex joint that is able to carry out a number of movements and functions. As a result, there are many causes of shoulder pain. Osteopaths are highly trained to diagnose and treat many conditions of the shoulder. Using orthopaedic, medical and Osteopathic examination we are able to identify exactly what is causing your shoulder pain and treat it accordingly.

The most common shoulder problems that we see at Whole Health Osteopathy are:

  • postural related shoulder problems

  • repetitive shoulder injury

  • frozen shoulder

  • rotator cuff injury

  • shoulder impingement and arthritis

Pain and restriction in the shoulder can also result from, or lead to, neck and back pain therefore it is always advisable not to ignore it.

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