Living with a frozen shoulder: a phenomenological inquiry

Suellen Anne Lyne, Fiona Mary Goldblatt, Ernst Michael Shanahan

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Background: Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is an inflammatory condition affecting the capsule of the glenohumeral joint. It is characterised by a painful restricted range of passive and active movement in all planes of motion. The impact of frozen shoulder on affected individuals remains poorly characterised. In this study we sought to better understand the lived experience of people suffering from frozen shoulder to characterise the physical, psychological and socioeconomic impact of the condition. Methods: A qualitative study using a phenomenological approach was undertaken. Purposeful sampling was used to identify individuals for interview. Semi-structured interviews were performed and continued until saturation was achieved. A biopsychosocial framework was used during the analysis in order to generate themes which best described the phenomenon and reflected the lived experience of individuals’ suffering from this condition. Results: Ten interviews were conducted, and five main themes emerged including; the severity of the pain experience, a loss of independence, an altered sense of self, the significant psychological impact, and the variable experience with healthcare providers. Conclusions: These findings offer an insight into the lived experience of individuals with frozen shoulder, both on a personal and sociocultural level. The pain endured has profound impacts on physical and mental health, with loss of function resulting in a narrative reconstruction and altered sense of self. Our findings illustrate that frozen shoulder is much more than a benign self-limiting musculoskeletal condition and should be managed accordingly. Trial registration: ANZCTR 12620000677909 Registered 28/04/2020

Original languageEnglish
Article number318
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Adhesive capsulitis
  • Disability
  • Pain


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