What is Frozen Shoulder?

What is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder (also called adhesive capsulitis) is a condition characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder. Over time, the shoulder loses its normal range of motion and mobility.

Frozen Shoulder Stages


Symptoms of frozen shoulder tend to change over time, with pain and stiffness worsening from the onset, then improving. There are three stages of frozen shoulder:

  • Freezing - During this stage, the pain gradually worsens and you begin to lose mobility in the shoulder. This stage can last anywhere from six weeks to nine months.
  • Frozen - Pain may recede during this stage, but stiffness may remain and range of shoulder motion will be limited. The frozen stage can last several months, during which daily activities can be difficult due to loss of mobility.
  • Thawing - The range of shoulder motion begins to improve during this stage, lasting anywhere from six months to two years

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms


The two main symptoms of frozen shoulder are:

  • Severe pain
  • Significant loss of mobility in the shoulder

Frozen shoulder symptoms often take several months to develop and can take up to three years to resolve.

Frozen Shoulder Causes


While the exact cause of frozen shoulder is not completely understood, it is believed that inflammation resulting in progressive thickening of the connective tissues of the shoulder joint is responsible for the condition. When this capsule of tissue becomes inflamed, scar tissue develops and restricts movement, causing severe pain.

Inflammation can occur for various reasons but is most often caused by a minor injury to the shoulder joint that starts the inflammatory process.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Though the reasons for frozen shoulder are not fully understood yet, researchers know that some factors can affect your risk of developing this condition, including:

  • Age and sex - Frozen shoulder most often develops in those aged 40 to 60 years old, and women are more likely to develop the condition than men
  • Mobility - Those experiencing forced immobility or reduced mobility due to an injury, surgery, or other condition like a stroke are at a higher risk of frozen shoulder
  • Systemic diseases - Conditions including diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and cardiovascular diseases have been associated with a higher risk of developing frozen shoulder
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Frozen Shoulder Care

At NewYork-Presbyterian, our orthopedic experts can determine if you are at high risk of developing frozen shoulder, help mitigate frozen shoulder symptoms through treatment, and answer any questions you may have about the condition. If you are concerned you may be suffering from a frozen shoulder, make an appointment with our renowned care team today.