Thawing is the final stage of frozen shoulder – or adhesive capsulitis. As the last hurdle before you get better, let’s tackle the 3 signs that frozen shoulder is starting to thaw.
Each of the stages of frozen shoulder has its unique characteristics. You’re entering the thawing stage when previously excruciating symptoms like shoulder pain and stiffness slowly start to get better. (1)
We’ll cover all about it below. Here are the topics – tap on any of the bullets to go to its section:
- Sign 1: Minimal shoulder pain
- Sign 2: More range of motion
- Sign 3: Less difficulty in doing your daily tasks
- The previous stages of frozen shoulder
- 3 Treatments to speed up recovery
Or you can read on below.
Sign #1: There is minimal to zero pain
The inflammation level build-up initially contributed to the changes in your shoulder capsule.
Thus, you may still feel a bit of shoulder pain occasionally. But it’s nothing worse than what it was a few months or years before – when the condition started.
Sign #2: Your shoulder range of motion is starting to increase
Along with inflammation, the capsular thickening also starts to decrease. (4) This means you’ll range of motion will slowly improve.
For example, you may find that you can raise your arms much farther than in the previous months.
And also due to the decrease in pain, you might tolerate more aggressive shoulder stretches than you were once used to.
Sign #3: Your activity level is starting to normalize
Improvements in both your shoulder motion and pain will be noticeable during your daily activities.
You may even find that you aren’t as “limited” as you were before. Some examples may be:
- You aren’t shrugging or putting too much effort into reaching high objects.
- Wearing/removing your shirt isn’t as difficult as it was before
- You’re sleeping better and with less aching pain.
Further reading: All about frozen shoulder – explained by our physio.
What are the other stages of frozen shoulder?
A typical course of frozen shoulder occurs gradually. But after some time, it goes away on its own.
Throughout its duration, there will be changes in your symptoms that can be described in 3 stages. Thawing is the last stage, so your shoulder will go through two stages before:
First is the freezing stage.
It lasts for 3 to 9 months, with symptoms of (1):
- Increasing pain surrounding your upper arm bone.
- Your shoulder loses range of motion gradually.
Then is the frozen stage.
This one happens before thawing. It lasts for 10 to 14 months and you’ll likely experience (1):
- Decreasing intensity of shoulder pain.
- Worsening stiffness around your shoulder joint.
Learn more: In-depth guide to the 3 frozen shoulder stages
3 Treatments to speed up your recovery
The following methods will help “thaw” your frozen shoulder:
1) Home exercises and remedies
There are numerous treatments that you can do even in the comfort of your home.
From massage to various exercises, they will give you pain relief as you improve the function of your affected shoulder.
Learn more: The best home treatments for frozen shoulder
2) Physical therapy
Your shoulder capsule is inherently a strong connective tissue. But as your shoulder thaws, you might need more help in healing it. This is where a physical therapist comes in.
Your physio will perform different manual techniques on your shoulder. Also, your therapist will prescribe progressive stretching and strengthening exercises.
This is to further regain your movement and strength. (5)
3) Shoulder surgery
Going under the knife isn’t always needed at this stage. (4) But you may do so as a form of “last resort” if:
- You can’t stand a somewhat reduced range of motion.
- Other nonsurgical means have failed to show good results.
There are various procedures, from arthroscopy to shoulder manipulation, that can help. For proper guidance, check with your medical doctor.
Learn more: All about frozen shoulder surgery.
Does the thawing stage of frozen shoulder hurt?
The worst has already passed at this stage in terms of pain level. But you might still experience minimal pain around your shoulder joint. (1)
How do I know what stage of frozen shoulder I’m in?
This will largely depend on how your shoulder joint feels and the duration of each of your symptoms. But to be sure, schedule a consultation with your doctor.
What does the thawing stage of frozen shoulder feel like?
The pain and stiffness that you have been experiencing for months or years are now starting to resolve.
Conclusion: Signs of frozen shoulder thawing
Developing frozen shoulder and going through each stage can be a tough ordeal to go through. Recognizing each key sign of thawing brings you one step closer to going back to your normal state.
- Date, Akshay, and Luthfur Rahman. “Frozen shoulder: overview of clinical presentation and review of the current evidence base for management strategies.” Future science OA vol. 6,10 FSO647. 30 Oct. 2020, DOI: 10.2144/fsoa-2020-0145
- 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
- Yuan, Xiangnan, et al. “Pathophysiology of Adhesive Capsulitis of Shoulder and the Physiological Effects of Hyaluronan.” European Journal of Inflammation, Dec. 2017, pp. 239–243, DOI: 10.1177/1721727X17747439.
- 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
- 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