How is frozen shoulder diagnosed?

To diagnose frozen shoulder, your doctor will:

  • Discuss your symptoms and review your medical history.
  • Conduct a physical exam of your arms and shoulders:
    • The doctor will move your shoulder in all directions to check the range of motion and if there is pain with movement. This type of exam, in which your doctor is moving your arm and not you, is called determining your “passive range of motion.”
    • The doctor will also watch you move your shoulder to see your “active range of motion.”
    • The two types of motion are compared. People with frozen shoulder have limited range of both active and passive motion.
  • X-rays of the shoulder are also routinely obtained to make sure the cause of the symptoms is not due to another problem with the shoulder, such as arthritis. Advanced imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are usually not needed to diagnose frozen shoulder. They may be taken to look for other problems, such as a rotator cuff tear.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/19/2019.


  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Frozen Shoulder. Accessed 1/21/2019.
  • Codsi MJ. The painful shoulder: When to inject and when to refer. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2007;74(7):473-474.
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Shoulder problems. Accessed 1/21/2019.
  • American Physical Therapy Association. Physical Therapists Guide to Frozen Shoulder. Accessed 1/21/2019.

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