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Frozen Shoulder Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • Most cases of frozen shoulder can be treated at home, but it’s helpful to see a provider to get an accurate diagnosis.
  • You can treat pain and stiffness yourself by taking ibuprofen (Advil) and doing gentle stretching.
See home treatments

When you may need a provider

  • See a healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis.
  • See a shoulder specialist if symptoms don’t improve after 3–4 months.
  • You may need physical therapy to help gently stretch your shoulder.
See care providers

Emergency Care

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Call 911 or go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden weakness in the arm
  • Signs of a stroke like facial drooping or problems speaking

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All treatments for frozen shoulder
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Read more about frozen shoulder care options

When to see a healthcare provider

It’s important to see a healthcare provider such as an orthopedist for an accurate diagnosis. Other conditions like shoulder arthritis, rotator cuff tear, stroke, or nerve problems can be confused with frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder treatment may include physical therapy to improve your shoulder’s range of motion, prescription NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation, or a cortisone injection into the joint. It may take 3–4 months for symptoms to improve.

Getting diagnosed

A frozen shoulder diagnosis is based on a physical exam and your symptoms. You shouldn’t need an imaging test. Your doctor will test your strength and range of motion. They will also ask about conditions that make it more likely to get frozen shoulder, like diabetes or a prior shoulder injury.

They may order tests to rule out other causes. They may do an X-ray to rule out arthritis. If the diagnosis is not clear, they may recommend an MRI to check the rotator cuff, which can also cause pain and weakness.

What to expect from your doctor visit

  • Your doctor may order physical therapy exercises that gently stretch the muscles and tissues around your shoulder.
  • Prescription NSAIDs may be more effective for some patients than OTC medications.
  • During the freezing stage, you may be given a cortisone injection to reduce inflammation and pain. This can also help your range of motion improve more quickly.
  • Saline injections into the shoulder to lubricate the joint (called distension) may also help with movement.
  • In rare cases, when other treatments are not helping, surgery may be recommended. Surgery may include moving the shoulder to break up scar tissue while you are under anesthesia or a more invasive procedure that removes scar tissue.

Prescription NSAID medications for frozen shoulder

  • Ibuprofen (Motrin)
  • Naproxen (Naprosyn)
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • Nabumetone (Relafen)
  • Meloxicam (Mobic)

Types of providers

  • A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
  • An orthopedist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.
  • An orthopedic surgeon is a surgeon who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment (including surgery) of disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.
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