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Frozen shoulder - aftercare

Adhesive capsulitis - aftercare; Frozen shoulder syndrome - aftercare; Pericapsulitis - aftercare; Stiff shoulder - aftercare; Shoulder pain - frozen shoulder


A frozen shoulder is shoulder pain that leads to stiffness of your shoulder. Often the pain and stiffness are present all the time.

More About Your Injury

The capsule of the shoulder joint is made of strong tissue (ligaments) that hold the shoulder bones to each other. When the capsule becomes inflamed, it becomes stiff and the shoulder bones cannot move freely in the joint. This condition is called frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder may develop with no known cause. It can also occur in people who:

What to Expect

Symptoms of frozen shoulder often follow this pattern:

It can take a few months to go through each stage of frozen shoulder. The shoulder can get very painful and stiff before it starts to loosen. It can take as long as 18 to 24 months for complete healing. To help speed healing, your health care provider will likely do the following:

Most people have a full recovery with full range of motion without surgery.

Symptom Relief

Using moist heat on your shoulder 3 to 4 times a day may help relieve some pain and stiffness.

For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can buy these pain medicines at the store.

In Your Home

Get help setting up your home so that you can get to everything you need without reaching above your shoulders or behind your back.

Get help with house cleaning, taking out the garbage, gardening, and other household tasks.

Do not lift heavy things or do activities that require a lot of shoulder and arm strength.

Shoulder Exercises

You will learn some simple exercises and stretches for your shoulder.

Some of the exercises are:

Your doctor or physical therapist will show you how to do these exercises.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if:


Krabak BJ, Chen ET. Adhesive capsulitis. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 11.

Martin SD,Thornhill TS. Shoulder pain. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, Koretzky GA, McInnes IB, O'Dell JR, eds. Kelly and Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 49.


Review Date: 7/8/2020  

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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