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Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition in which the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful to move. Symptoms usually start slowly and progress over time. In some cases these symptoms can last six months or more. Anyone can develop frozen shoulder, but you are at higher risk if you are recovering from an injury where you do not move your shoulder. 


Although frozen shoulder can seem to be random in nature, most people have a specific event that started the process. It can be something as recent as 3 weeks ago or three years ago. Frozen shoulder can also develop from an altered movement pattern you didn't know you were doing. When the shoulder stops going through its full range of motion, the tissue that makes up the capsule becomes less pliable and starts to harden. At this point it becomes painful and most people will continue to lose range of motion to avoid pain. 

Frozen shoulder can also be related to a traumatic event. Some cases have occurred after car accident or falls in which the shoulder was injured. 


Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly, and in three stages. Each stage can last a number of months.

  • Freezing stage. Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, and your shoulder's range of motion starts to become limited.
  • Frozen stage. Pain may begin to diminish during this stage. However, your shoulder becomes stiffer, and using it becomes more difficult.
  • Thawing stage. The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.

For some people, the pain worsens at night, sometimes disrupting sleep.


The typical medical treatment can include a series of cortisone injections, physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medication. Even with these interventions, this treatment method does not improve the healing time by much.

A chiropractic approach to treatment involves addressing the spinal accessory nerve where it exists the base of the skull. This nerve controls the upper trapezius muscle which is a big player in the movement of the shoulder. Pressure on this nerve can alter the movement of the shoulder causing the capsule to freeze. Treatment with A.R.T. and specific adjustments to the neck, middle back and shoulder have been know to resolve frozen shoulder in as little as three treatments.