Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a painful condition with a significant restriction of movement at the shoulder joint, most frequently with lifting or turning the arm outwards. The joint capsule becomes tightened and inflexible.


Frozen shoulder is marked by pain and restriction at the shoulder. The normal course of frozen shoulder can be described in three stages.

Stage 1 – The “freezing” stage

A slow onset of pain is felt. The shoulder begins to freeze as the pain worsens. This stage may last 6 weeks to 9 months.

Stage 2 – The “frozen” stage
Pain begins to improve but the stiffness and restriction of movement remains. This stage may last 4 to 9 months.

Stage 3 – The “thawing” stage

Shoulder motion slowly returns towards normal. This stage usually mirrors the freezing stage. For example if stage 1 lasted 6 months, stage 3 will often take the same amount of time.

Although frozen shoulder often spontaneously resolves in 2 years, several studies have shown symptoms to persist for as long as 10 years.


The exact cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, but contributing factors include:

  • Trauma or disorders of the shoulder including impingement syndrome, bursitis, tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, dislocations and osteoarthritis.
  • Trigger points in the subscapularis muscle
  • Postural dysfunctions such as hyperkyphosis, protracted scapulae and forward head posture.
  • Disuse following shoulder injury or immobilization.

Those with conditions such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism are more likely to experience frozen shoulder than the general population.

How can Massage Therapy help?

Various special tests and assessment tools will be used to determine what factors are contributing to the frozen shoulder. Depending on the findings of the assessment the therapist will use techniques such as trigger point therapy, frictions, hydrotherapy, joint play, fascial work and will work to maintain and improve range of motion. Massage Therapy may often reduce the time frame of frozen shoulder if employed early enough.