How is Frozen Shoulder Diagnosed?


If you are experiencing frozen shoulder symptoms, your doctor will likely perform a physical examination to determine the cause of the problem. After discussing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will ask you to move your shoulder in certain ways and may manipulate your shoulder to evaluate your range of motion. They will ask which movements and actions, if any, are causing you pain.

Usually, frozen shoulder can be diagnosed with a physical examination. Still, sometimes a doctor will order additional imaging tests such as an X-ray or MRI to gather more information about your condition and rule out other problems.

How is Frozen Shoulder Treated?


Frozen shoulder generally improves over time, but your doctor may recommend several treatment options to reduce pain and improve mobility. Treatment of frozen shoulder may include:

  • Physical therapy - The most common treatment for frozen shoulder. Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen the shoulder’s joint capsule, improving mobility over time.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines - Over-the-counter medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium can help manage pain
  • Steroid injections - Injecting corticosteroids into the shoulder may help decrease inflammation, improve mobility, and decrease pain
  • Joint distension - If other nonsurgical methods have been exhausted, your doctor may recommend the injection of sterile fluid into the shoulder joint to expand the shoulder joint capsule
  • Surgery - In rare cases that do not resolve with other treatments or overtime, arthroscopic surgery or shoulder manipulation under anesthesia may be necessary


To make sleeping with a frozen shoulder more comfortable, you can put a pillow underneath your affected arm or place a pillow on your chest with your arm across it. Do not sleep on the side of the affected shoulder if possible.

Frozen shoulder pain is usually dull and aching and is concentrated in the outer shoulder and upper arm. Pain generally gets worse and then improves.

Frozen shoulder almost always goes away over time and can be helped with physical therapy and other treatments. In very rare cases, the condition can become permanent if left without treatment.

Pain is usually the first sign of a frozen shoulder, followed by increasing stiffness in the joint.

Supervised physical therapy for a frozen shoulder usually lasts one to 12 weeks, followed by at-home treatment. Some patients’ symptoms resolve in only a few months, but full recovery can take years for others.

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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Shoulder Instability Care

The experts at NewYork-Presbyterian have years of experience recognizing and treating the symptoms of frozen shoulder. Our doctors will guide you through the treatment and therapy process, ensuring you feel empowered to ask questions and take an active role in your recovery.