Frozen shoulder: living with uncertainty and being in "no-man's land"

Physiother Theory Pract. 2023 May;39(5):979-993. doi: 10.1080/09593985.2022.2032512. Epub 2022 Feb 14.


Background: Frozen Shoulder (FS) is a painful debilitating condition that is a significant burden to those experiencing it and healthcare systems. Despite research investigating the pathogenesis and effective treatment for the condition, there is a paucity of research exploring how having frozen shoulder is lived through and meaningful to persons experiencing it.

Objective: To explore how living with Frozen Shoulder is experienced and meaningful.

Methods: A qualitative research study design using hermeneutic phenomenology methodology was used. In-depth unstructured interviews were conducted with six purposively recruited participants. Interpretive Phenomenological methods were used to analyze the data forming emergent, superordinate and master themes to qualitatively expose the meaningful aspects of living through FS.

Findings: Five Master themes were identified: 1) "Dropping me to my knees," an incredible pain experience; 2) The struggle for normality; 3) An emotional change of self; 4) The challenges of the healthcare journey; and 5) Coping and adapting. The overarching 'binding theme' was Frozen Shoulder: Living with uncertainty and being in "no-man's land."

Conclusions: This study illuminated the struggle to maintain a normal life while living with the significant pain, physical restriction, sleep loss and disability experienced by persons with Frozen Shoulder. Attempts to cope and adapt were impeded by the challenges of the healthcare journey. The uncertainty of these experiences was conveyed as being in "no man's land" an expression that reflected the existential crisis and impact on persons' sense of self.

Keywords: Frozen shoulder; adhesive capsulitis; hermeneutics; lived experience; phenomenology; quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Bursitis* / therapy
  • Hermeneutics
  • Humans
  • Pain
  • Qualitative Research
  • Uncertainty