Adhesive Capsulitis Treatment

Stiff and swollen shoulders are a common sign of adhesive capsulitis (or frozen shoulder). Over time, the pain increases and can limit movement affecting activities of daily living in the targeted area.  Specialized Physical Therapy can help reverse the effects of  frozen shoulder with targeted adhesive capsulitis treatment

Frozen shoulder is a painful condition that limits shoulder movements.

Over time, the shoulder becomes very stiff. It occurs commonly in people aged between 40 and 60.  If you have a medical condition that limits your arm movement, you may be at an increased risk of developing a frozen shoulder.  The onset of the symptoms of frozen shoulder is gradual. They get worse over time before the condition gets better.

 Full recovery can take approximately 6-12 months without immediate treatment.

At Specialized Physical Therapy, we optimize the recovery process by developing personalized therapy plans to fit your needs.

Frozen Shoulder: An Overview

Your shoulder joint comprises of multiple bones, tendons, and ligaments, all encapsulated in the form of connective tissue.

Adhesive Capsulitis occurs when this connective tissue gets thick and wraps around your shoulder joint. As a result, you’re unable to move your shoulder freely.  Frozen shoulder can occur in people with a systemic disease like diabetes or those who have to immobilize their shoulder after surgery or an arm fracture.  


Adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder, is characterized by severe pain and stiffness of the shoulder joint. It may feel achy when it is resting, but the pain will become sharp once you start to move and use it. There are multiple stages to frozen shoulder:

Stage 1. “Pre-freezing”: This is the stage when you first start noticing sharp pain in the shoulder over 1 to 3 months without any sign of improvement. You may start to realize your motion with rotating your shoulder out to the side as if to put your jacket on or reaching behind your belt is both limited and very painful.

Stage 2: “Freezing”: During the freezing stage, you may have had pain and limited mobility for about 3 to 9 months. You will likely experience greater pain, limitations, and pain at night.

Stage 3: “Frozen”: When you have reached the frozen stage, you have likely experienced pain and stiffness for 9 to 14 months and your symptoms have peaked. By about 14 months, you should start to feel less pain when you are not moving and only discomfort when you stretch your shoulder to its end limits.

Stage 4: “Thawing”: During this last phase around 12-15 months, your shoulder symptoms slowly start to decrease. Your pain decreases and your mobility improves.

Please note, however, that these time frames may differ from person to person.


Adhesive capsulitis occurs when the connective tissue that covers the joint deep to the shoulder surface thickens and stiffens. The thickening of this tissue is responsible for the restrictions in movement. There is no known cause of adhesive capsulitis, but some theories include inflammation in the shoulder or systemic inflammation (such as an autoimmune disease), post surgery complications, pain after surgery or injury resulting in immobilization and subsequent stiffness.

  • Age: People over 40 are more likely to experience frozen shoulder.
  • Gender: The shoulder condition is observed in women more than men.
  • Poor medical condition: Specific health problems such as diabetes, thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, and tuberculosis increase the risk of developing a stiff shoulder.
  • Injuries: Associated physical conditions such as rotator cuff injury, fractures, and a broken arm might cause a frozen shoulder. 
  • Stroke: Cardiovascular diseases and blood pressure can also increase the risk of adhesive capsulitis.


Pain and stiffness in the shoulder can mimic a variety of diagnoses. However, physical therapists at Specialized Physical Therapy are trained to identify this diagnosis by what is known as a “capsular pattern.”

A capsular pattern is a specific pattern of movement loss that is seen with frozen shoulder. The capsular pattern of the shoulder is when your shoulder external rotation motion (rotating the arm out to the side) is more limited than the abduction motion (raising arm out to the side), which is more limited than internal rotation (reaching your arm behind your back). With the right action plan, recovery can occur in 6 weeks to 3 months, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Treatment and Exercises

We develop a detailed frozen shoulder physical therapy program for effective treatment. Our primary goals are to improve your posture, reduce shoulder pain, and enhance muscle strength. These outcomes enable you to restore lost mobility in the affected area. 

We also provide at-home techniques and exercises for shoulder pain management. Along with that, we alter your daily activities and offer ergonomic tips to mitigate the risk of a relapse.  It also makes it easier for you to return to recreational and occupational activities with a full range of motion and optimal function.

Book an initial consultation for frozen shoulder with an expert by calling us @ 201-773-8851 to schedule your first appointment.

Request a free consultation or give us a call to get started!