Pain and persistent stiffness in the shoulder joint are the two main symptoms of a frozen shoulder, making it painful and difficult to carry out the full range of normal shoulder movements or everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, driving and sleeping. Symptoms may vary from mild, with little interference to daily activities, to severe, where it may not be possible to move your shoulder at all. And they usually progress gradually over months or even years.
In stage one, the ‘freezing’ phase, the shoulder will start to ache and become very painful, often worse at night and when lying on the affected side. This can last 2-9 months. Stage two, the ‘frozen’ phase, can last 4-12 months. The shoulder may become increasingly stiff, while the pain does not usually get worse and may even decrease.
The shoulder muscles may start to waste away slightly because they are not being used. During stage three, the 'thawing' phase, the patient will gradually regain some movement in their shoulder and the pain will begin to fade, although it may recur from time to time as the stiffness eases. Although full movement of the shoulder may not be regained the patient will be able to carry out many more tasks. This stage can last from five months to many years.