Skip to Content

Adhesive Capsulitis


Adhesive capsulitis happens when tissues in your shoulder tighten and swell. The condition is often called frozen shoulder because the swollen tissues cause pain and decrease your shoulder movement.



  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Stretches to do at home:

Your healthcare provider may suggest stretches to help improve your symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider which stretches are best and how to do them. The following stretches may be suggested:

  • Doorway stretch: Stand in a doorway with your painful arm bent at the elbow. Place your hand on the door frame and turn your body away from the door frame. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat.
  • Forward stretch: Lie on your back with your legs straight out. Use your healthy arm to push your painful arm up over your head until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Slowly lower your arm to the starting position. Relax and repeat.
  • Crossover stretch: Use your healthy arm to gently pull your painful arm across your chest just below your chin. Pull until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat.

Ice or heat:

Ice or heat on your shoulder may help decrease your pain and improve shoulder movement. Apply ice to help ease pain after stretching. Put heat on your shoulder to help relax your muscles. Use ice or heat as directed.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have worse pain and stiffness in your shoulder.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have new or more trouble moving your arm.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.