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What is frozen shoulder and how is it treated?

Written by: Mr Ziali Sivardeen
Edited by: Jay Staniland

What is a frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where the shoulder becomes painful and stiff, often without any obvious cause.

The shoulder becomes very hard to move as the capsule, which is the flexible tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint, becomes thick and tight.

The condition can develop and gradually get worse over a number of months, and even years, and pain is generally felt between two and nine months.

What are the causes of frozen shoulder?

The causes of frozen shoulder are not fully understood.

However, there are a few factors that may put you more at risk from developing frozen shoulder:

Frozen shoulder can also occur when people don’t move the shoulder for an extended period of time, perhaps after another injury such as a fracture or surgery.


How is frozen shoulder treated?


Most cases of frozen shoulder will heal over time, with little or no treatment, but some kinds of treatments can help speed up the process, and alleviate any pain or discomfort in the patient.

Frozen Shoulder can be treated by:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Injections
  • Distension
  • In some cases, surgery


Is frozen shoulder a recurring injury?


Frozen shoulder can recur in some patients, even after surgery. However, recurrence is more common in patients with a pre-existing condition such as diabetes.


How common is frozen shoulder?


Frozen shoulder occurs in approximately 2% of the population, and occurs more commonly in women than men. The condition most commonly affects people aged between 40 and 60 years old.


What is the recovery time for frozen shoulder?


Frozen shoulder can take several years to fully recover from. It is very important to ensure that a frozen shoulder is correctly diagnosed and treated by a specialist consultant orthopaedic surgeon.

By Mr Ziali Sivardeen
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Ziali Sivardeen is a leading specialist orthopaedic surgeon, based in London. He had the honour of being the surgeon that operated on all Olympians and Paralympians requiring shoulder or elbow surgery during the 2012 London Olympic Games. Due to his role, Mr Sivardeen was invited to a special reception in Buckingham Palace.

He has worked closely with many athletes, including those linked with Premier League football clubs, where he treats knee problems such as ACL injuries, cartilage, and meniscal tears. 

Mr Sivardeen has represented the prestigious Royal Colleges of Surgeons, firstly as a tutor from 2010-2014, before being appointed as one of two regional surgical advisors for London. In 2015, he organised the pan-London Sports and Exercise Medicine Teaching Programme, and became an examiner for the Intercollegiate Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons (FRCS exams). He was a member of the Specialist Training Committee for sports and exercise medicine trainees in London from 2009 to 2015, so played an important part helping to develop this new speciality.

His research interests include orthopaedic shoulder and knee problems, including sports injuries in elite rugby players. He had in excess of 70 presentations accepted at prestigious national and international meetings by 2012. At the main World Shoulder and Elbow Meeting in 2010, his research was the only piece from the UK that was short-listed for the best prize and he was invited to give an educational talk at the next World Shoulder and Elbow Meeting (ISCES) held in Japan in 2013.

He is one of the few (perhaps only) consultant orthopaedic surgeons in the UK to be trained by 3 presidents of national orthopaedic societies at fellowship level. He has a passion for teaching and training, and regularly runs sports injury symposia in London. He has also been invited around the world to deliver lectures and master classes teaching other surgeons, consultants and practitioners.

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