Health Matters: Frozen shoulders

Uppermill pharmacist IAN STRACHAN offers some top tips for dealing with frozen shoulders.

Ian Strachan headshot

FROZEN SHOULDER is a condition leading to pain and stiffness. You find the symptoms progressively worsen over a number of months, even years.

Typically sufferers will encounter shoulder pain for the first two to nine months, which can be severe followed by increasing stiffness. I have known people whose shoulder has become completely immobilised. Improvement can take several years.

Sufferers will often describe difficulty performing everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, driving or sleeping comfortably.

Frozen shoulder is often characterised by phases beginning with an ache then becoming very painful when reaching out for objects. This may be followed by a period of stiffness.

The final phase is often described as a thawing phase as the shoulder regains movement.


Sufferers should always visit their doctor when persistent shoulder pain is encountered

which limits your movement. The earlier frozen shoulder is diagnosed the more likely that treatment can help prevent long-term pain and stiffness.


The condition occurs when the tissue surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and thickened. It is not fully understood why this happens although it is estimated around 1 in 20 of us in the UK may be affected at some point. Most sufferers are between 40 and 60 and it is more common in women than men.


The treatment will vary depending upon the stage and severity of your pain and stiffness. Many cases improve naturally and may take 18 to 24 months although I’m sorry to report some examples have taken much longer.

Pain relief from pharmacies, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, may ease symptoms but consult with your pharmacist as to their suitability in your circumstances.

Physiotherapy may be considered to improve flexibility – however your GP is ideally placed to recommend the most appropriate treatments.

Next month: I’m going to explore threadworms.

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