Can your Frozen Shoulder be Unfrozen?

Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder is a common condition among older adults where one or both of the shoulder joints are stiff with a reduced range of motion. Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is the inflammation of the glenohumeral joint space, and it is a common cause of pain and stiffness for a number of adults. While it typically affects adults of at least age 40 years, many often attribute this to the natural aging process. With that said, there are signs, symptoms, as well as possible breakthroughs in the condition ahead.

What Causes the Frozen Shoulder?

Currently, there is no known official cause of frozen shoulder, but it is believed that inflammation may play a major role in the condition. In addition to inflammation being a potential cause, whenever the shoulder is immobilized for any long period of time there is a risk that frozen shoulder could be the result.

What to Look out for with a Frozen Shoulder?

The signs and symptoms of this condition are generally straight and forward. Usually, stiffness is the primary symptom that adults experience. In addition to stiffness, some adults experience shoulder pain and limitations with every day living. While the signs and symptoms can present at any given time, there is growing evidence to suggest that a frozen shoulder could now be unfrozen with certain exercises as well as with a doctor directing the unfreezing portion.

What are Some of the Treatment Options

While it is best to consult with a doctor prior to starting any treatment program for a frozen shoulder, there are some things that can be done to manage the symptoms of the condition. Consider some of the treatment options below for best results.

  • Light Range of Motion. Perhaps one of the most preventative things adults can do to alleviate frozen shoulder is to stay on top flexibility, or to maintain adequate range of motion throughout the aging process. As the body ages, the joints lose flexibility and range of motion decreases, which understates the importance of range of motion exercises throughout life.
  • Physical Therapy. Another important element in treating this is to seek the advice and expertise of a physical therapist. A physical therapist is specialized and can guide you through a full program of exercises as a way to help you to prevent or to treat the frozen shoulder. In addition, a therapist can assist with passive range of motion techniques to get your shoulder to move through a greater range of motion.

Can a Frozen Shoulder Be “Unfrozen?”

New and exciting evidence is examining if it is possible to unfreeze a frozen shoulder. Recent studies and trials have shown promising results of getting a frozen and stiff shoulder through an entire range of motion, with the use of doctor supervision as well as medical therapy. While frozen shoulder is something that many expect to have forever, it is reasonable to expect this condition to hit ground-breaking level as a result.

Why see a Physical Therapist?

After visiting with your doctor and getting the diagnosis of a frozen shoulder, it should come as no surprise that a physical therapist should be your first source for treatment. Treatment with the assistance of a physical therapist will involve moving the shoulder through your current range of motion, while pushing the range to the limits. The overall goals when seeing a therapist for a frozen shoulder should be to unfreeze the shoulder and to once again gain mobility.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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