The efficacy of physiotherapy interventions in the treatment of adhesive capsulitis: A systematic review

J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2021;34(2):195-205. doi: 10.3233/BMR-200186.


Background: Adhesive capsulitis is a debilitating condition which causes the capsule of the gleno-humeral joint to thicken and contract progressively. The effectiveness of various non-operative methods has been demonstrated to improve the pain, range of motion (ROM) and functional status of patients with adhesive capsulitis.

Objective: This study aims to review recent evidence on the efficacy of physiotherapy interventions in the treatment of adhesive capsulitis.

Methods: PubMed, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), Science Direct and Cochrane databases were searched for studies published since 2013. The search terms included: Frozen shoulder, adhesive capsulitis, physical therapy, rehabilitation, manual therapy, mobilization, exercise, education, and electrotherapy. The search was limited to studies published in English and studies that used human subjects.

Results: Quality scores of 33 articles were reviewed according to the Sackett's critical appraisal criteria and the grades of recommendation were determined for physiotherapy interventions used in the studies.

Conclusion: The empirical evidence suggests that certain physical therapy techniques and modalities are strongly recommended for pain relief, improvement of ROM, and functional status in patients with adhesive capsulitis, while others are either moderately or mildly recommended. However, the efficacy of one treatment modality over another is uncertain. The poor methodological rigors demonstrated in most of the reviewed studies emphasize the urgent need of properly conducted, adequately sampled randomized controlled trials with adequate follow up to determine the superior combination of treatment.

Keywords: Bursitis; adhesive capsulitis; exercise; frozen shoulder; outcome assessment; pain; physical therapy modalities; range of motion.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bursitis / physiopathology
  • Bursitis / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome