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What to Do About Frozen Shoulder

Medically known as adhesive capsulitis, a frozen shoulder can strike when you’re sidelined due to an injury or when you have certain medical conditions. The resulting pain and stiffness can make everyday activities difficult.

Left untreated, a frozen shoulder can get worse and significantly interfere with your daily life. 

At Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, with three New Jersey locations, board-certified orthopaedic specialist Dr. David Dickerson can address your pain and help you recover from orthopaedic conditions both common and rare. 

Here our team discusses what you can do if you have a frozen shoulder. 

Frozen shoulder overview

A frozen shoulder is exactly what it sounds like: Your shoulder gets stuck and mobility is limited as a result. You don’t just lose function either; a frozen shoulder is often painful.

In your shoulder joint, the rounded shape of your upper arm bone fits into a socket in the shoulder blade. This joint is surrounded by connective tissue called the shoulder capsule.

Normally, the shoulder capsule effortlessly expands and contracts with arm movement. When the tissues become inflamed, however, scarring develops, tightening the shoulder capsule, restricting movement, and causing pain. If you’re in this situation, you have a frozen shoulder. 

Frozen shoulder causes

Frozen shoulder is most likely to develop after your shoulder has been immobilized due to problems such as:

You’re also at a greater risk of a frozen shoulder if you have a condition such as a thyroid imbalance, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

The stages of frozen shoulder

A frozen shoulder develops gradually, typically advancing through three stages: 


During this stage, which can last six weeks to nine months, shoulder pain becomes noticeable and tends to slowly worsen. 


Pain may improve during this stage, but the shoulder continues to stiffen and be difficult to move, limiting range of motion. This stage may last 4-6 months. 


During this stage, shoulder mobility gradually improves. In many cases, restoring range of motion can take several months. 

Recovering from a frozen shoulder

Physical therapy and structured exercises are often effective at relieving shoulder pain associated with a frozen shoulder. The goal is to lower inflammation and restore your shoulder’s motion and strength as much as possible.

Loosening scar tissue helps improve mobility of the shoulder. It’s important to keep your shoulder moving as much as possible, which is a challenge when it’s frozen. That’s why the road to thawing a frozen shoulder begins with support from an orthopaedic professional. 

As experts in physical therapy, we have years of experience using various treatment approaches to improve a frozen shoulder. Dr. Dickerson creates an individualized treatment plan based on the extent of your frozen shoulder and any concurrent injuries. 

Treatment may include in-office therapy complemented by an at-home exercise program.

Other at-home care may include hot and cold therapy to lower inflammation and promote healing. If your shoulder is severely or completely frozen, you may need the assistance of devices like an overhead pulley to help you exercise at home.

In the office, we put your shoulder through its range of motion, which may include passive movement as we manipulate your arm. We help you perform the extent of movement you’re able to achieve without significant pain.

We can help thaw a frozen shoulder with manual therapies to loosen scar tissue and adhesions. We also have the expertise and equipment to safely stretch the capsule, open the shoulder joint, and help you rebuild strength in the shoulder. 

Without treatment, your frozen shoulder is likely to worsen. Don’t wait to get the help you need to relieve your pain and restore your shoulder function.

To get started, schedule an assessment with Dr. Dickerson by calling Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at one of our three locations in Toms River, Shrewsbury, or Wall Township, New Jersey. We’re here to support your recovery.

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