inner banner for mobile light blue website banner

Adhesive Capsulitis

Adhesive Capsulitis

Date: November 2, 2023

So, you have been told you have a frozen shoulder, but what does that mean?  This blog is going to address what a frozen shoulder is, what to expect, and how physical therapy helps those experiencing a frozen shoulder.

Adhesive Capsulitis, or a frozen shoulder, is a shoulder impairment that causes pain and stiffness which affects a person’s daily activities. Symptoms often appear gradually, and with time, increase in severity. Adhesive capsulitis often occurs with no clear reason, or after a minor injury. People are more likely to experience adhesive capsulitis when they are 40-65 years old, female, experienced adhesive capsulitis in their other arm, as well as having diabetes mellitus or thyroid disease.

Adhesive capsulitis occurs on a continuum of stages that have been well documented and studied. The first stage, or the “freezing” stage, is where you gradually experience increased loss of motion which can last 3-9 months. This is generally the most painful stage with pain occurring with movement, at rest, or at night. The “frozen” stage, or stage 2, is when stiffness is the greatest, though pain may be present. Finally, stage 3 is the “thawing” stage, where pain begins to resolve, and shoulder motion gradually improves. Ultimately, after 12-18 months, many patients report little or no disability, though they may still experience mild-moderate pain and mobility deficits.

What do these stages mean for me?

            Having an understanding of the changes that occur in a person’s shoulder who has adhesive capsulitis allows for an understanding of evidence-based treatments. It also helps with the prediction of where in the recovery timeline you are, as well as what to expect. Another important thing to understand is that the course of adhesive capsulitis takes some time.

What should I do if I have a frozen shoulder?

            Keep your shoulder moving! Avoiding using your arm by keeping it at your side will only promote an increased loss of motion. Though it can be difficult to move your arm, performing exercises or your normal activities that incorporate your arm will prevent further freezing resulting in increased disability. A physical therapist can help progress you through the stages of adhesive capsulitis including treatments like joint mobilizations to increase motion, exercises to help stretch and increase range of motion, as well as different interventions to help with the pain. 

Schedule an evaluation today!

            If you are suffering from adhesive capsulitis schedule an evaluation with a physical therapist today. They will perform a thorough history as well as evaluation to help establish where in the continuum you are, and what impairments need to be addressed.


Kelley MJ, Shaffer MA, Kuhn JE, et al. Shoulder pain and mobility deficits: adhesive capsulitis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013;43(5): A1-A31. doi:10.2519/jospt.2013.0302

Previous ArticlePickleball Strengthening Exercises Next ArticleCarpal Tunnel Syndrome