A blinded, randomized, controlled trial assessing conservative management strategies for frozen shoulder

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2014 Apr;23(4):500-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2013.12.026.


Background: There is little evidence for the optimal form of nonoperative treatment in the management of frozen shoulder. This study assesses the efficacy of current physiotherapy strategies.

Methods: All primary care referrals of frozen shoulder to our physiotherapy department were included during a 12-month period. Of these referrals, 17% met the inclusion criteria for primary idiopathic frozen shoulder. The 75 patients were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: group exercise class, individual physiotherapy, and home exercises alone. A single independent physiotherapist, who was blinded to the treatment groups, made all assessments. Range of motion, Constant score, Oxford Shoulder Score, Short Form 36, and Hospital Anxiety and Disability Scale (HADS) outcome measures were performed at baseline, 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year.

Results: The exercise class group improved from a mean Constant score of 39.8 at baseline to 71.4 at 6 weeks and 88.1 at 1 year. There was a significant improvement in shoulder symptoms on Oxford and Constant scores (P < .001). This improvement was greater than with individual physiotherapy or home exercises alone (P < .001). The improvement in range of motion was significantly greater in both physiotherapy groups over home exercises (P < .001). HADS scores significantly improved during the course of treatment (P < .001). The improvement in HADS anxiety score was significantly greater in both physiotherapy intervention groups than in home exercises alone.

Conclusions: A hospital-based exercise class can produce a rapid recovery from a frozen shoulder with a minimum number of visits to the hospital and is more effective than individual physiotherapy or a home exercise program.

Keywords: HADS; SF-36; Shoulder; adhesive capsulitis; anxiety; frozen shoulder; physiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bursitis / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome