frozen shoulder

Frozen Shoulder – causes, symptoms & top 5 exercises to get relief

Apeksha is a maths teacher at a secondary school and teaches in an NGO while she is not in school. Her teaching method is the reason that made her popular amongst the students. She always used chalk and duster to do each sum or even to explain concepts to her students. She also used the same method to teach the NGO students. But recently, she has been facing a weird restriction or stiffness in her right shoulder.

She feels some striking pain in her upper arm and shoulder, and daily activities have also become a problem for her. Movements such as extending her hand to write on the board have also become achy. She thought it must have happened for some time because she probably slept the night awkwardly. As the pain increased, she realized it was more than just morning cramps, so she visited her doctor to learn more about it . Her doctor ran some tests and told her that she had symptoms of a frozen shoulder. Her doctor told her to take physical therapy and prescribed some medicines to her. 

Let’s learn in detail about what medical condition Apeksha was diagnosed with.

What is a frozen shoulder?

The name itself suggests that the affected body part is the shoulder, and to be precise, it degrades the shoulder joint. Getting back to the name again gives us an idea about something that doesn’t work well or is jammed because it’s frozen. That something here is your shoulder joint.

frozen shoulder

When one has a frozen shoulder, the capsule gets so thick and stiff that it is difficult to make any movement. Several bands of Scar tissue develop in the joint, and the fluid for its lubrication, known as synovial fluid, reduces. These processes further restrict movement.

A capsule in your shoulder joint is a group of ligaments that attaches your arm, or so to say your upper arm, to the shoulder socket firmly. And the Synovial fluid is the fluid secreted in the joint to keep it moving without any tightness or for the ball-socket- joint to glide easily.

Frozen shoulder is typically characterised by pain and stiffness that develops gradually, worsens, and resolves. This can take anything between a few months to three years. The medical term used by doctors for this condition is Adhesive Capsulitis. Adhesive indicates the sticky nature that the shoulder adapts to in this condition, and capsulitis suggests the inflammation in the shoulder joint’s capsule.

Stages of Frozen shoulder

This condition starts and grows and comes to an end in three stages, much like how the storyline of a movie begins, builds up, and then reaches its climax.

1. Freezing 

It is the first stage of the disease. Here you start noticing pain in your shoulder at any movement. It gets worse over time and can get more painful during the night.

This is the stage at which the gradual loss of motion in the shoulders happens, and this phase will last from 6 months to 9 months.

2. Frozen 

The pain gets better at this stage, but the stiffness worsens. Daily movements also become challenging. The stiffness at this stage is very high, and any action gets very difficult. This stage lasts from 4 months to 6 months.

3. Thawing 

This stage is the defrost stage. In this stage, the shoulder movements slowly start getting better. Gradually the mobility in the arms increases and returns to normal. But this stage takes time from 6 months to 2 years.

frozen shoulder

What causes Frozen Shoulder?

This condition is triggered when there is inflammation in the shoulder joint’s capsule. The shoulder gets stiff and restrictive because of the lack of lubrication in the shoulder joint. Women in general and diabetic patients make the major population suffering from this disease. There is no specific cause for the frozen shoulder to happen. Still, prolonged immobility is said to be one of the possible reasons for the stiffness. This prolonged immobility can be during recovery from surgery. One can identify the reasons for inflammation and pain in the shoulder and then trace it to adhesive capsulitis.

Symptoms of frozen shoulder

There are only two significant symptoms one experiences in a frozen shoulder: stiffness and pain. Stiffness in the shoulder leads to reduced movement, and this immobilization further increases stiffness. There is a constant dull achy pain in your upper arm. The pain is worse at night; hence this disturbs sleep. Tightness in the shoulder keeps increasing until the thawing phase, whereas the pain reduces from the freezing stage to the frozen stage.

frozen shoulder

Exercises for frozen shoulder

1. Cross body stretch

frozen shoulder


  • Stand or sit with your arms to your side 

  • Now raise the affected arm and stretch it to the other side and use the other arm to direct and stretch your arm fully.

  • Hold the stretch from 30 to 60 seconds.

  1. Standing arm extension


  • Stand and hold a bar with both your arms behind your hip.

  • Now lift your arm upward towards your head till you feel the stretch.

  • Hold the bar for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat

  1. Supine arm extension


  • Lay down in a supine position, with your arms on the side.

  • Now lift your arm up and stretch it back towards your head.

  • Use your other arm to support the affected arm at the elbow to extend.

  • Hold the stretch from 30 seconds to 60 seconds.

  1. Pendulum stretch


  • Stand and lean over slightly, relax your shoulder, and 

  • let the affected arm hang loosely. 

  • Rest the other arm on a table to support, not rotate your arm in the diameter of your leg.

  • Do 10 rotations a day.

  1. Finger walk


  • Stand in front of the wall. 

  • Extend your arm to the wall in a way that your elbow is still bent

  • Put your index finger and middle on the wall so that your fingers can walk like a spider on the wall.

  • Start from your waist level and go up as much as possible, stretching your shoulder. Also, make sure your fingers are doing the work.

  • Repeat this from 10 to 20 times a day.


Frozen shoulder is a self-recovering condition. Usually, the people suffering from this disease get 80% to 90% of mobility back in their shoulders. And globally, over 1% to 4% have suffered from frozen shoulders at least once in their lifetime. This condition’s treatment comprises treating the physical symptoms through exercises and stretches while treating pain with some medications.

Written By

Kanak Tiwari

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