Osteopathy For Frozen Shoulder: What You Need To Know

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you couldn’t lift your arm without suffering from immense pain? It’s an awful feeling, especially if it lasts for months and months. If this has happened to you, you have likely suffered from a frozen shoulder. However, osteopathic treatment may help get you through this experience and regain the function of your shoulder.

Osteopathic care uses manual therapy, exercise rehabilitation and personalised advice to help patients. Let’s explore how osteopathy can help treat a frozen shoulder.

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Can an osteopath help with a frozen shoulder?

Osteopathy involves hands-on techniques that can help treat a frozen shoulder.

Osteopaths will use their training and experience to increase the movement of the shoulder joint and give advice you can follow at home to maintain the improvement made in your treatment session.

This treatment involves stretching and massaging your shoulder muscles to increase your range of motion. This treatment will always be done within your pain limits and should allow for easier shoulder use at home.

The osteopathic approach focuses on treating the frozen shoulder and what may have caused the frozen shoulder in the first place. Our osteopaths want to work with you to help in every way possible and get you back to your best health.

What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, occurs when the shoulder capsule becomes stiff, thickened, and inflamed. As the capsule thickens, it causes tightness within the movement, entrapment of nerves and immense pain. In most cases, a frozen shoulder occurs following an injury but can occur without trauma. Rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory diseases may increase the chance of developing a frozen shoulder.

If you’re suffering from a frozen shoulder, you must know that you’re not alone. According to this article from the Australian Journal of General Practice, published by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the condition affects >250,000 Australians. Due to this frequency, our practitioners are all well experienced with treating frozen shoulders and helping people through this experience.

Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint

The shoulder is a complex joint that connects your upper arm bone (humerus) to your shoulder blade (scapula). The shoulder joint is held together by ligaments and muscles called ‘rotator cuff muscles’. The shoulder is a shallow ‘ball and socket joint’ that allows for a large range of movement.

This unique anatomy allows for movement in many directions; forward and backward (flexion and extension), sideways (abduction and adduction) and rotation (internal and external).

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Common Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of a frozen shoulder are:

  • pain and stiffness in the affected shoulder
  • loss in the range of motion as stated above
  • weakness (often due to the pain)
  • tenderness around the deltoid muscle insertion
  • tingling or numbness in the affected arm can present in the later stages of a frozen shoulder


Symptoms of a frozen shoulder usually undergo three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing.

3 Phases of Frozen Shoulder


The “freezing” stage indicates the time in which the capsule is actively thickening and tightening. During this stage, you may feel pain during or after activities like reaching up to get something from a shelf or trying to lift a heavy object. The pain often goes away when you rest but returns when you move your arm. The pain and immobility will progressively get worse through this stage and the earlier you can start treatment the better.

The freezing stage will often last months and will be very gradual.


The “frozen” stage indicates the time period in which the shoulder capsule has stopped actively tightening but has not yet started to “thaw”. This stage is identified by a stabilising in the symptoms and immobility, however, symptoms will still be present.

The goal of treatment is to maintain as much movement in the shoulder so that during the frozen stage you can still use your shoulder and enjoy life.


The “thawing” stage begins when a noticeable and sustained range of movement increase is achieved in the affected shoulder. Frozen shoulders are not expected to fully resolve during this stage without treatment and exercise rehabilitation.

With the help of an osteopath at a clinic like MPR Health, you should be able to gradually improve your frozen shoulder symptoms and regain your range of motion and strength.

How long will it last?

Frozen shoulder can last anywhere from 4-30 months. The average expected timeframe for a frozen shoulder is 15 months, and the earlier you can start treatment, the better the prognosis.


The exact cause of frozen shoulder syndrome is unknown, but it’s believed to be caused by a combination of factors.

The most common contributing mechanical factors are poor posture (kyphosis), repetitive use injuries of the shoulder (likely from sports or workplaces), and previous injuries to the shoulder joints and/or surgery. Certain health conditions like diabetes or thyroid disease may also increase your risk of developing frozen shoulder syndrome.

It used to be thought that frozen shoulders affected women more frequently, although this is now shown not to be the case, with men and women being affected equally.

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Risk Factors

Injuries or conditions that may contribute to a frozen shoulder include:

  • Overuse injuries and repetitive movements
  • Kyphotic ‘poor’ posture.
  • Health conditions such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, cardiovascular disease, and Parkinson’s disease
  • Poor ergonomics at work or home, including monotonous tasks requiring constant repetition with slight variation, such as typing on a keyboard without taking breaks


If you suffered from an injury or condition that could cause your frozen shoulder and you’ve been having symptoms for more than three weeks, consult an osteopathic practitioner specialising in musculoskeletal disorders.
Our osteopaths at MPR Health in Roseville, Sydney, are always happy to answer any questions you may have.

How do osteopaths diagnose a frozen shoulder?

Our osteopaths will assess your shoulder and surrounding areas to determine the root cause of your frozen shoulder. They will conduct tests, such as a detailed history of your symptoms, to diagnose your condition.

The physical examination may include the following tests:

  • Inspection of the shoulder for swelling, deformity or tenderness
  • Palpation of the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles to identify any abnormalities
    Range of motion testing (seeing how far you can move your arm), including active and passive range of motion measurements; active movement means moving your arm on your own; passive movement means having someone else move your arm.


We recommend using a digital range of motion testing equipment for increased accuracy. At MPR Health, we use VALD tracking technology to ensure our findings are high quality and replicable.

The signs to look for are:

  • A 50% decrease in external rotation compared to the other side
  • A 25% reduction in 2 other ranges in the shoulder
  • Movement that has been progressively decreasing


Pain assessment via a visual analog scale (VAS) questionnaire may also be done, with questions such as “on a scale from 0-10, how painful is it when you try to lift this cup?” and “over time, has the pain gotten worse?”

Clinical reasoning skills are essential in making an accurate diagnosis. A good osteopath will consider age, gender, and previous injuries when assessing the patient’s symptoms.

Can I combine osteopathy with other types of treatment?

At MPR Health, we value working with your existing medical teams and believe a collaborative approach to health care gets the best results.

  • Osteopathy and medication. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help with the pain. Let your osteopath know so they can adapt treatment and management.
  • Osteopathy and cortisone injections. Some studies suggest that a combination of manual therapy and local cortisone injection can help manage pain and maintain better shoulder movement.


The goal of treatment is to find the best solution with the least amount of side effects. Osteopathy may be worth looking into if you want to avoid taking medication but don’t want to live in pain.

What not to do if you have a frozen shoulder?

  • Stay away from sports and other activities that put stress on your shoulder.
  • Avoid heavy lifting
  • Avoid overhead movements
  • Avoid sleeping on the affected shoulder
  • Avoid driving for long periods
  • Avoid long periods of repetitive movements, such as typing, sewing, playing musical instruments, and other hobbies that require frequent use of your arms.

What can you do in-between visits to the osteopaths to alleviate pain and aid in recovery?

In-between visits to osteopaths, you can do a few things to alleviate frozen shoulder pain and aid in recovery.

If you can move your arm a little bit, try doing that as often as possible to help maintain shoulder movement. If it is painful, we recommend doing this in a hot shower or with a heat pack over the shoulder.

Applying a heating pad or hot/cold pack on the affected area of your shoulder can also help reduce pain. We recommend a heat pack for mild pain and an ice pack for severe pain. Always create a thin barrier between your skin to avoid heat or ice burns.

Stretching the muscles around your shoulder with gentle movements daily can help prevent neck stiffness and headaches.

Ask your osteopath about isometric exercises you can do to prevent muscle wasting and atrophy due to lack of exercise. Isometric exercises are exercises that don’t involve movement, so they should be safe and pain-free to do with a frozen shoulder, but do seek advice before starting.

Rehabilitation Exercises for Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder rehabilitation exercises are essential in the recovery process. They can help you regain strength and mobility, increase your range of motion and decrease pain. You can perform the following exercises, but it is essential to go through them slowly without overstretching or moving too fast. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

We have provided a video below showing the exercises so you can see what each one looks like.

Before beginning the exercises, discuss them with your osteopath or therapist. They will be able to advise you on whether some are suitable for you and how often to perform them.


If you have a frozen shoulder and are looking for an osteopath to help with your recovery, then you’re in the right place. This article explained what a frozen shoulder is, and how osteopathy can help. We also discussed rehabilitation exercises that will aid your recovery so you can fully return to everyday life!

If you are looking for an osteopath in the North Shore of Sydney to help you with your frozen shoulder recovery, then our team at MPR Health is here to help. We provide various services, including osteopathic treatment for frozen shoulders and other musculoskeletal conditions.