“Freezing, Frozen & Thawing” – My 3 phases of frozen shoulder


The  “Freezing” Phase

Picture this:

You reach for your favorite cup. You wince!  Unphased, you try again.  

Another blast of pain! 

You need your morning fix, and remember the local drive through. You reach through  the window to pay and experience another jolt.

Nonchalantly, you unbuckle your seatbelt, flash an apologetic smile, and stretch across your chest with what is now becoming your ‘“good arm,” only you don’t quite know this yet.

Your shoulder is in phase one and beginning to freeze. 

A physio friend explained it this way. In the freezing phase, the capsule around your shoulder joint is weaving a tight web of thick tissue over the ligaments, bones and tendons. Pain increases as mobility decreases. You sense that something is off. Two weeks ago you were paddling across the lake. Today it hurts to raise your arm. 

The “Frozen” Phase

In phase two, or the frozen phase, your shoulder feels completely stuck.  The frozen phase can last from one to two years. 

Pain may diminish, but your mobility becomes severely restricted. Routine activities like washing your hair, vacuuming, driving, cooking, fastening a seat belt, and even dressing become next to impossible, and very time consuming. Many individuals describe that they feel like a T-Rex, with that big body and teeny tiny arms jostling for survival. 

Discomfort often interrupts a restful night’s sleep.

Your friend’s sister mentions that physiotherapy treatments are proven successful for frozen shoulder. They help with pain relief, mobility and strength. You are optimistic and ring for an appointment. 

Your therapist confirms that your shoulder is frozen. It could take one to three years to heal.The treatments include range of motion exercises, ice, heat, laser therapy, ultrasound, numbing medications, and possible corticosteroid injection into the affected joint. Your range of motion will be closely monitored. 

The “Thawing” Phase

Another Year

“Time does not fly.” It can take 6 months to two years for a shoulder to thaw. You have come so far and are proud of your determination, strength, and progress.  

It was late Spring. The sun was out. The birds were singing. I was in the garden determined to dig. I experienced a surge of new found energy running up my arm. It started with a tingle. I knew in my heart it was a sign.. 

The moment had come. My shoulder was thawing and I was healing.  

The painful vice began to loosen. I could move.  Mobility slowly returned and I was hopeful.

Measuring your range of motion can become a bit of an obsession. Whether it be up a wall, peering into the bathroom mirror, or with an app, these numbers provide proof that you are recovering. You start to feel like your former self. 

I forced myself to be proactive when I had frozen shoulder.  I didn’t want to be dependent on pain medication, and I desperately wanted to get better. I remained committed to professional help, but also learned that there were many things I could do independently. I spent a great deal of time reading, and discovered multiple paths to healing.  

This information raised so many questions. Did I have a previous injury?  How was my  diet?  What was I eating?  Certain foods increase inflammation and pain. Emotions and stress can play a part. Did I have coping strategies for unwelcome thoughts and feelings?  Was I too hard on myself?” How about exercise? How would I rate my overall health?

Walking is an amazing activity full of numerous health benefits. Swing those arms and lubricate those joints. I began to take deep refreshing breaths.

You too will return to your beloved hobbies and sports. You will get your life back. The nightmare of frozen shoulder will end.


I was sitting in a treatment room, my back to the door. My shoulder was frozen and I was in pain. I was attached to a machine that intermittently compressed a gigantic, heavy ice pack strapped to my shoulder. It hurt.

I heard the door open and in walked my physio. “How are you today Janice?” I lied and said “OK.”  She told me she would be back in ten minutes. I heard her pause at the door. I cranked my head around. “Janice,” she said,  “I hope you show yourself the same compassion and kindness that you show everyone else.” I felt my eyes burn.

Self-compassion, self-love, and self-care are so important. You could even go so far as to say that successful recovery depends on them.

Spoiler Alert

And that dear friend, is the beginning of a whole other story.



This article was also published at: https://1birthdayfun@medium.com

Featured image – Image courtesy of Unsplash – Keenan-constance