Frozen Shoulder Test

Orthopedic Exam / Special Tests for Physical Therapy: SHOULDER

Frozen Shoulder Test / Adhesive Capsulitis Test:

Background: Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, aka adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually, worsen over time and then resolve, usually within one to three years. The risk of developing frozen shoulder increases if the patient is recovering from a medical condition or procedure that prevents them from moving their arm. Frozen shoulder typically develops slowly, and in three stages. Each stage can last a number of months.

Frozen Shoulder Stages:

  1. Freezing Stage – Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, and your shoulder’s range of motion starts to become limited.
  2. Frozen Stage – Pain may begin to diminish during this stage. However, your shoulder becomes stiffer, and using it becomes more difficult.
  3. Thawing Stage – The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.

Frozen Shoulder Test / Adhesive Capsulitis Test:


  • To test for: the presence of Frozen Shoulder; restricted motion at the shoulder caused by fibrosing and adhesion of the axillary fold of the inferior Glenohumeral Joint Capsule.

Video Demo Instructions, Procedure, Positive Test:

Frozen Shoulder Test / Adhesive Capsulitis Test:  Video Demo (Procedure below):

Frozen Shoulder Test: PROCEDURE 1:

• Patient is seated or standing
• Patient or Therapist externally rotate the patient’s affected arm (active or passive).


• Decreased range of motion; painful, leathery end feel before normal shoulder external rotation ROM

Adhesive Capsulitis Abduction Test: PROCEDURE 2:

• Patient is seated. Therapist stands behind the patient.
• Therapist palpates patient’s inferior angle of scapula and monitor its movement throughout the test.
• With the therapist’s other hand, holding just above patient’s elbow, slowly abduct the patient’s humerus
• Therapist takes note of when the inferior angle of the scapula starts to move.


• Painful, leathery end feel before 90° of abduction