Adhesive capsulitis is a stubborn and spontaneous condition caused by joint inflammation. (1) Fortunately, there are tons of frozen shoulder treatment options that can help you get better.
And though this condition goes away on its own, it can take up to 3 (long) years before it does so. (2)
So, if you’re developing frozen shoulder, these are the best 10 treatment options to try – tap on any of them to learn more:
Effective home remedies for frozen shoulder
After frozen shoulder occurs, there are several things you can do to manage it at home. Here are the best ways to do so:
1) Pain management tools
Heat therapy is a great way to decrease pain and potentially improve your shoulder range of motion. (3) It’s easy to use and goes well with other types of home remedies.
Gel packs, hot packs, or even a warm bath are common and available choices of heat therapy.
Now, in instances of severe pain, there are over-the-counter pain medications that you can take.
I suggest using it only when your heat therapy fails to make a difference. This is to avoid developing opioid dependence for your pain relief.
2) Move your shoulder joint often
Your symptoms might trick you into thinking that even the slightest feeling of pain can lead to more harm to your shoulder joint.
If you let it, this misconception might lead you down a rabbit hole of helplessness and chronic pain. (4)
So, ground yourself into the reality that you are going to get better.
Follow this up by exploring activities and movements that you enjoy.
If you are into working out, then there are specific exercises for your frozen shoulder that can help ease your pain and improve shoulder mobility.
If it’s cardio, then the natural arm motions of walking or jogging may help in improving blood flow around your shoulder joint capsule.
3) Having a good sleep routine
Did you know that you are more sensitive to pain if you don’t sleep well? (5)
This is why having a healthy and consistent sleep routine is important. It signals your body to relax, get you ready for bed, and have a better sleep. This is key to recovery. (6)
A few examples that I found useful are avoiding the use of smartphones and e-readers an hour before bedtime. See if these things can also help you sleep better!
Learn more: Best home treatments for frozen shoulder
Nonsurgical treatment for frozen shoulder
Evidence shows that up to 90% of people who develop frozen shoulder do well with nonsurgical care. (7) The best options are:
4) Go to physical therapy
Undergoing physical therapy (PT) is an effective way to bring pain relief and improve your shoulder’s range of motion. (8)
To achieve that, your physical therapist will first do a physical exam to know what stage of frozen shoulder you are currently at.
This will help them design your treatment plan and estimate how frequent your PT sessions should be in order to see results.
5) Steroid injections to improve your range of motion
This option is for you if:
- Your shoulder pain bothers you a lot.
- You want pain relief that can last for months.
This therapy consists of injecting cortisone -an anti-inflammatory drug- directly into your shoulder capsule. This helps reduce pain, improve your range of motion and function. (9)
Its effects aren’t permanent, though.
Evidence shows they may last up to 26 weeks. (9) But, this can buy you time to go work on your physical therapy and other treatments that will bring more lasting results.
Also, this can help you go through your daily life while not being held back by constant pain.
6) Try acupuncture
If you are looking for some alternative medicine options, then acupuncture is a method you can look into.
For frozen shoulder, acupuncture needles are placed on specific areas around your upper arm bone. This helps improve blood flow, range of motion and relieve pain. (10)
If needles aren’t your thing, then there are other forms of acupuncture that use less invasive methods. Just make sure to do this with a certified practitioner to prevent complications.
Further reading: Benefits of acupuncture for adhesive capsulitis
Surgical treatment for frozen shoulder
If non-surgical methods haven’t worked well for the past few months, then you might need surgery for your shoulder injury. (7)
Two common procedures are arthroscopic surgery and manipulation under anesthesia.
Both are equally effective in reducing pain and restoring shoulder movement.
- 0.4% for arthroscopy.
- 0.6% for MUA.
I know the percentages are extremely low, but they are risks nonetheless. To minimize them, find a qualified orthopaedic surgeon that you can trust with your health.
Other treatments for frozen shoulder
Other conditions can cascade into a frozen shoulder – menopause and diabetes. Below are the two most common remedies for each.
9) Calcitonin spray therapy for menopause
If you are a middle-aged woman who started to experience a painful shoulder, then it may have to do with your hormones. (1)
See, menopause causes hormonal imbalances. Such changes may indirectly trigger the inflammatory process of frozen shoulder. (1) In this case, a nasal spray containing calcitonin hormone may be the treatment for you.
Calcitonin is a hormone that lowers your calcium levels. Evidence shows that it may also reduce tight spots around your shoulder capsule, helping manage frozen shoulder. (1)
However, check with your doctor first to make sure you need it.
Further reading: Menopause and frozen shoulder
10) Controlling sugar levels in diabetes
People with diabetes are particularly prone to develop frozen shoulders. (12)
This is due to enzymes that appear when you have excess blood sugars. These enzymes attach to the joint tissues, making them susceptible to inflammation. (13)
That’s why it’s key to keep your blood sugar in check. Consult with your doctor if needed – you might need some changes in your diet or adjustment in your medications to control your glucose.
Learn more: Diabetes and frozen shoulder
What does a physical therapist do for frozen shoulder?
A physical therapist can help you reduce pain and improve your range of motion by various methods. A few examples include skilled manual therapy and specific stretching exercises.
How long is recovery from frozen shoulder surgery?
This can vary from patient to patient. But research shows that full recovery of pain-free range of motion averages at about 2.8 months after surgery. (14)
Can frozen shoulder go away on its own?
Yes, but it may take up to two to three years. (2)
How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and will take your medical history.
If you have risk factors, shoulder pain, and loss of movement, your physician will likely diagnose a frozen shoulder.
Conclusion: How to fix frozen shoulder?
From hot showers to blood sugar levels, there are a lot of treatment options that can help with your suspected frozen shoulder.
But if you are overwhelmed with all the treatment options, consult with your physical therapist or your doctor to know which one suits you best.
- Kraal, T et al. “The puzzling pathophysiology of frozen shoulders – a scoping review.” Journal of experimental orthopaedics vol. 7,1 91. 18 Nov. 2020, doi: 10.1186/s40634-020-00307-w
- Mezian K, Coffey R, Chang KV. Frozen Shoulder. [Updated 2021 Sep 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482162/
- Chan, Hui Bin Yvonne et al. “Physical therapy in the management of frozen shoulder.” Singapore medical journal vol. 58,12 (2017): 685-689. doi: 10.11622/smedj.2017107
- Quartana, Phillip J et al. “Pain catastrophizing: a critical review.” Expert review of neurotherapeutics vol. 9,5 (2009): 745-58. doi: 10.1586/ERN.09.34
- Rosseland, Ragna et al. “Effects of Sleep Fragmentation and Induced Mood on Pain Tolerance and Pain Sensitivity in Young Healthy Adults.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 9 2089. 31 Oct. 2018, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02089
- Pacheco, Danielle. “Bedtime Routines For Adults.” Sleep Foundation. 8 January 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/bedtime-routine-for-adults
- Pandey, Vivek, and Sandesh Madi. “Clinical Guidelines in the Management of Frozen Shoulder: An Update!.” Indian journal of orthopaedics vol. 55,2 299-309. 1 Feb. 2021, doi: 10.1007/s43465-021-00351-3
- Cho, Chul-Hyun et al. “Treatment Strategy for Frozen Shoulder.” Clinics in orthopedic surgery vol. 11,3 (2019): 249-257. doi: 10.4055/cios.2019.11.3.249
- Sun, Yaying et al. “Intra-articular Steroid Injection for Frozen Shoulder: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials With Trial Sequential Analysis.” The American journal of sports medicine vol. 45,9 (2017): 2171-2179. DOI: 10.1177/0363546516669944
- Ben-Arie, Eyal et al. “The Effectiveness of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Frozen Shoulder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2020 9790470. 25 Sep. 2020, doi: 10.1155/2020/9790470
- Kraal, Tim et al. “What Is the Right Timing for Arthroscopic Capsular Release of a Frozen Shoulder? Letter to the Editor.” Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine vol. 8,2 2325967120903710. 28 Feb. 2020, doi: 10.1177/2325967120903710
- Dyer, Brett P et al. “Diabetes as a Prognostic Factor in Frozen Shoulder: A Systematic Review.” Archives of rehabilitation research and clinical translation vol. 3,3 100141. 14 Jul. 2021, DOI: 10.1016/j.arrct.2021.100141
- Goldin, Alison et al. “Advanced glycation end products: sparking the development of diabetic vascular injury.” Circulation vol. 114,6 (2006): 597-605. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.106.621854
- Sharma, Sunil. “Management of frozen shoulder – conservative vs surgical?.” Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England vol. 93,5 (2011): 343-4; discussion 345-6. doi: 10.1308/147870811X582080