Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

It’s estimated that up to 1 in 20 people in the UK will experience a frozen shoulder at some point in their lifetime. Also known as adhesive capsulitis or shoulder contracture, this condition can restrict movement, cause severe pain, and prevent your ability to carry out everyday activities. 

The sooner it is treated, the better, particularly because frozen shoulder is often mistaken for other, similar injuries or conditions. If you want to know more about the symptoms of frozen shoulder, potential causes and possible treatments, see below for our handy guide. 

What are the symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

Diagnosing a frozen shoulder can be difficult in some cases, as there are several different stages. It’s important to keep track of your symptoms and note any changes, especially if your condition is getting worse. Generally speaking, the three stages are:

Pre-freezing stage

During this stage, symptoms may be very similar to shoulder impingement syndrome. They include:

  • Pain in the top and outer side of your shoulder
  • Pain that’s worse when lifting your arm, particularly when lifting above the head
  • Pain or aching at night which can lead to sleep disruption
  • Pain and stiffness in your shoulder

Phase 1 – Freezing

If left untreated, your condition may progress to the freezing stage. Symptoms include:

  • Sharp pain when rotating your shoulder or reach for something up high
  • Inability to sleep on the affected side due to shoulder pain
  • Sharp ‘catching’ pain that can last several minutes
  • A dull burning pain within the shoulder joint
  • Pain affecting the outside of the upper arm. 

Phase 2 – Frozen

The final stage occurs when the shoulder has become extremely stiff or ‘frozen’. Symptoms include: 

  • Extreme stiffness in your shoulder joint
  • Very limited range of motion
  • Difficulty performing day to day activities
  • Pain that has travelled down to the forearm

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms (from any of the stages) it’s important to make an appointment with your GP. An alternative health professional like a chiropractor or physiotherapist may also be able to offer diagnosis and treatment. 

Potential causes of a frozen shoulder

A frozen shoulder occurs when the tissue around the shoulder joint becomes inflamed, although it can be hard to pinpoint the underlying cause of this inflammation. The tissue then becomes tighter and shrinks, leading to pain, stiffness and difficulty moving with movement. 

A frozen shoulder can be triggered by a previous injury or surgery that prevented you from moving your arm normally (such as an arm fracture or rotator cuff tear). It can also be more common in those with certain pre-existing conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. 

Do’s and don’ts for frozen shoulder

It’s important to seek professional diagnosis and treatment if you’re suffering from a frozen shoulder but there are things you can do yourself to help manage the pain. 

  • DO try to move your shoulder where possible – keeping it still can only increase pain and stiffness.
  • DO try heat or ice packs to relieve the pain.
  • DON’T undertake any strenuous exercise without consulting a professional first – certain exercises and gym equipment can make frozen shoulder pain worse. 
  • DON’T make sudden, jerky movements. While it’s important to stay mobile, don’t perform any activities that involve sudden, strenuous moves e.g heavy lifting.
  • DO seek pain relief if necessary. You may be prescribed painkillers to help manage the pain.
  • DO follow any exercises prescribed by your doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist. 

Treatment for a frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder symptoms can resolve themselves over time, however this can take between one and three years on average, which is a long time to be in pain! Thankfully, there are some treatments available to help ease the pain and speed up the recovery process. You may receive one or a combination of the following treatments:

  • Pain relief – Over the counter medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to ease mild frozen shoulder pain.
  • Prescribed pain relief – If the pain is more severe or impacting on your day to day activities, you may be prescribed stronger pain relief. This could include prescribed painkillers or steroid injections to help bring the swelling down. 
  • Physiotherapy – Physiotherapy can help you regain movement in the affected shoulder. The number of sessions will be tailored to your needs, depending on how you respond to treatment. Treatment usually includes a combination of stretching exercises, exercises to build up strength and good posture advice. 

Can a chiropractor help with a frozen shoulder?

Yes they can! Chiropractic treatment can be very effective for those with frozen shoulder symptoms. Chiropractors don’t just address your surface symptoms either; they also look for the root cause, reducing the chances of frozen shoulder returning in the future. 

Chiropractic treatment can help to control frozen shoulder pain, improve mobility and speed up the recovery process. Your chiropractor will first perform an initial examination to pinpoint any underlying issues. They’ll then use gentle manipulation techniques to help realign the spine and reduce pressure on the surrounding tissue. You can expect to see an improvement after just one session, however a treatment plan is often recommended to give you the best care possible. 

Book a consultation at Kasa Chiropractic today

If you’re looking for a Bristol Chiropractor to help manage your frozen shoulder symptoms, we can help. To make an appointment with one of our skilled practitioners, or to manage an existing appointment, click here to use our online booking system. We look forward to welcoming you to our Southville or Clifton chiropractic clinic very soon!