Frozen shoulder will usually get better on its own, although it takes considerable time (sometimes up to two or three years). Treatment is based on controlling pain and restoring motion.
The mainstay of treatment for frozen shoulder is aggressive physical therapy. A good therapist can help relieve pain and restore motion. Therapeutic exercises include stretching and range of motion exercises, followed by modalities such as heat and/or ice to improve symptoms. As with any physical therapy regime, a good home program is essential.
Oral anti-inflammatories (Naproxen, ibuprofen) can help relieve pain, especially in the "freezing" stage.
An injection of corticosteroid into the shoulder joint may allow for a more rapid recovery from frozen shoulder, especially if the diagnosis is made early in the disease process. The procedure is performed in the office, and often is done under ultrasound guidance in order to confirm that the injection is placed in the correct area.
More than 90 percent of patients improve without surgical treatment. However, in those few patients that do not get better with physical therapy and time, surgical intervention can be considered. Surgery involves an arthroscopic procedure to release the contracted tissue around the shoulder joint, followed by a manipulation to break up any other adhesions. The surgery is typically performed in an outpatient setting, and therapy commences a few days following the procedure. Recovery varies from six weeks to four months.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.