Treatment Orthopedics

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder will usually get better on its own, although it takes considerable time – sometimes two or three years. The goals of treatment are controlling pain and restoring motion.

Physical Therapy

The mainstay of frozen shoulder treatment is aggressive physical therapy. Techniques include stretching and range-of-motion exercises, followed by applying heat or ice to the area. As with any physical therapy regime, a good home program is essential.


Taken orally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen) can relieve pain, especially during the first ("freezing") stage.


A corticosteroid injection into the shoulder joint may foster a more rapid recovery, especially when done early in the disease process, as the shoulder is getting stiff. The procedure is performed in the office, often using ultrasound imaging to ensure the injection is placed accurately.


More than 90 percent of patients improve without surgery. For those who don’t get better with physical therapy and time, surgical intervention can be considered. In the arthroscopic (minimally invasive) procedure, the surgeon uses specialized instruments to view and release the tissue that has contracted around the shoulder joint and to break up any other adhesions (damaged tissues that have grown together). Patients can usually go home the same day, and physical therapy begins a few days later. Recovery varies from six weeks to four months.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

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