Adhesive Capsulitis | Symptoms


What are the signs of adhesive capsulitis?

You should be able to move your shoulder in all directions without pain or stiffness. To test your shoulder movement, do these things:

  • Reach up toward the sky with both arms.
  • Reach your arms out straight in front of you.
  • Raise your arms out to the sides of your body.
  • Pretend that you are trying to unzip the back of your dress or pull your wallet from the back pocket of your pants.

Does my shoulder actually freeze?

No, sometimes adhesive capsulitis can cause your shoulder to just stop moving. This happens because if you don't use your shoulder enough (because it hurts to move) or if you use it the wrong way, your shoulder will develop scar tissue that stops it from moving around easily. Your shoulder may go through several stages as the scar tissue forms, and it may get better on its own.

1.    The painful stage. At first, your shoulder may ache and feel stiff. Then it may get very painful. This stage may last about 3 to 8 months.

2.    The adhesive stage. During the second stage, you may not actually have as much pain, but your shoulder keeps getting stiffer. This stage usually lasts about 4 to 6 months.

3.    The recovery stage. The final stage, which usually lasts about 1 to 3 months, isn't very painful. It becomes very hard to move your shoulder even a little bit. Then after a while, the stiffness slowly goes away. You can move your shoulder again. Although you may not get the full movement of your shoulder back, you should be able to do many more activities. As your shoulder movement increases, you may still have pain at times.


Adhesive Capsulitis: A Sticky Issue by LB Siegel, M.D., NJ Cohen, M.D., and EP Gall, M.D. (American Family Physician April 01, 1999,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 09/00