Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)

Treatment options to restore your shoulder mobility

Most frozen shoulder treatment involves controlling shoulder pain and preserving as much range of motion in the shoulder as possible. Although many frozen shoulders get better on their own within 12 to 18 months, the sufferer can have very significant pain and sleep disturbance. For persistent symptoms, your consultant specialist may suggest other non-surgical procedures such as steroid injections and joint distensions. However, if none of the above has relieved your shoulder pain, your consultant may recommend surgery. 

Non-surgical treatment methods

  • Medications

  • Therapy

  • Steroid injections

  • Joint distension


Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with frozen shoulder. In some cases, you may be prescribed stronger pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs. Although these may well help your symptoms, they may not in isolation limit the length of this syndrome.


A physical therapist can teach you range-of-motion exercises to help you recover as much mobility in your shoulder as possible. Your commitment to doing these exercises is important to optimise recovery of your mobility. However, in some instances these may not be possible or indeed be counter-productive, particularly in the initial phases of this condition where pain is a significant feature. Physical therapy is extremely helpful in conjunction with other treatment modalities to maximise and maintain the effect of regaining range of motion.

Steroid injections

Injecting corticosteroids into your shoulder joint may help decrease pain and improve shoulder mobility, especially in the early stages of the process.

Joint distension

Injecting sterile water into the joint capsule can help stretch the tissue and make it easier to move the joint. Often this is combined with a steroid injection.

Frozen shoulder surgery: when nothing else has helped

Surgery for frozen shoulder is rare, but if nothing else has helped, your consultant may recommend surgery to remove scar tissue and adhesions from inside your shoulder joint. This is usually extremely effective in helping resolve pain and regain range of motion. This procedure is performed arthroscopically (keyhole surgery).

Surgical treatment methods

  • Frozen shoulder surgery – When nothing else has helped