See a GP if:

  • you have shoulder pain and stiffness that does not go away – pain can be worse at night when sleeping
  • the pain is so bad it makes it hard to move your arm and shoulder

These are symptoms of frozen shoulder.

Broadly, treatment works in 3 main steps:

  1. Pain relief – avoid movements that cause you pain. Only move your shoulder gently. Use paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain.
  2. Stronger pain and swelling relief – prescribed painkillers. Maybe steroid injections in your shoulder to bring down the swelling.
  3. Getting movement back – shoulder exercises once it's less painful. This can be at home or with a physiotherapist.

You may get a mix of these treatments depending on how painful and stiff your shoulder is.

Stronger pain relief is usually only used for a short time because it can cause side effects.

How long frozen shoulder lasts

Frozen shoulder can take at least 1.5 to 2 years to get better. Sometimes it can be up to 5 years.

But the pain and stiffness will usually go away eventually.

Do

  • follow the exercises from your GP or physiotherapist

  • keep an upright posture and your shoulders gently back

  • move your shoulder – keeping it still will make the pain worse

  • try heat or cold packs on your shoulder

Don't

  • do not make up your own strenuous exercises – for example, gym equipment can make the pain worse

  • do not slouch when sitting – do not roll your shoulders and bring your neck forward

It's often not clear why people get a frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder happens when the tissue around your shoulder joint becomes inflamed.

The tissue then gets tighter and shrinks, which causes pain.

Frozen shoulder can happen because:

  • you had an injury or surgery that keeps you from moving your arm normally
  • you have diabetes – it's still unclear why this is, but it's important to have your regular diabetes check-ups to catch any problems early