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What is the treatment for a frozen shoulder?

The treatment of a frozen shoulder usually requires an aggressive combination of anti-inflammatory medication, cortisone injection(s) into the shoulder, and physical therapy (physiotherapy). Without aggressive treatment, a frozen shoulder can be permanent.

Diligent physical therapy is often essential for recovery and can include ultrasound, electric stimulation, range-of-motion exercise maneuvers, stretching, ice packs, and eventually strengthening exercises. Physical therapy can take weeks to months for recovery, depending on the severity of the scarring of the tissues around the shoulder.

It is very important for people with a frozen shoulder to avoid reinjuring the shoulder tissues during the rehabilitation period. These individuals should avoid sudden, jerking motions of or heavy lifting with the affected shoulder.

Sometimes a frozen shoulders is resistant to treatment. Patients with resistant frozen shoulders can be considered for release of the scar tissue by arthroscopic surgery or manipulation of the scarred shoulder under anesthesia. This manipulation is performed to physically break up the scar tissue of the joint capsule. It carries the risk of breaking the arm bone (humerus fracture). It is very important for patients that undergo manipulation to partake in an active exercise program for the shoulder after the procedure. It is only with continued exercise of the shoulder that mobility and function is optimized.

Return to Frozen Shoulder

See what others are saying

Comment from: Shakey, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 09

Let me start off by saying frozen shoulder is by far the worst pain I have ever experienced and wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy! I don't know how I ended up with frozen shoulder but physical therapy and cortisone injections did not help. The only thing that took the edge off was tramadol and that made me unable to work. Sudden movements brought me to the floor with such severe pain that I can only describe as someone trying to manually rip your arm off. After dealing with this for nearly 6 months, I finally had no choice but to have arthroscopic surgery. Physical therapy is grueling but necessary to help get range of motion back. Two months after surgery I can now move my arm enough to wash my own hair. It's a terribly long road to recovery but don't give up; the pain will get better slowly but surely!

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Comment from: cjje, (Patient) Published: May 26

I had a frozen shoulder for over a year and a half. The pain would bring me to tears at times, it was so hard to bear. I went to several physical therapists and received various treatments. I went to an orthopedic doctor and got a cortisone shot. I went to a chiropractor and to a massage therapist. I found some relief from some of the treatments and made small gains in range of motion. I started doing yoga and got acupuncture treatments. What I believe finally returned nearly full range of motion was doing psychotherapy work with a therapist that considered the body-mind-spirit connection. I think what I needed most was to talk about and get some resolution from a trauma in my past that was preventing me from living my life and having a voice.

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Comment from: Another catlady, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: April 20

I have torn rotator cuffs and had frozen shoulder in both arms and pain down to my fingers. I got back full range of motion in three months. The secret is power through the pain; get orthopedic deep tissue massage which probably is not covered by insurance. The massage therapist says all of the fascia, tendon, and muscles get stuck together and the therapy helps with that. Plus it is not really painful if done right. I still have torn tendons and arthritis but I got my life back. The physiotherapy people don't really push you like they should but two orthopedists told me that you have to force your shoulder to obey you. Good luck and don't give up.

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