Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is one condition that has had significant amounts of research. It can be difficult to diagnose early on in the painful phase but when the stiffness starts it becomes easier. It commonly occurs following an injury and is more prevalent in individuals with auto-immune, thyroid or diabetic family histories. Over the years many different treatment approaches have been tried most of them have little to no positive effect. Current management involves keeping the shoulder blade muscles moving and strong enough while waiting for the condition to follow it normal course. Typically this can range from 9 months to 2 years. While it’s best to consult with your local physio to get the proper treatment for frozen shoulder, there are some exercises you can do at your home that can help. It is important that you do not push into pain.
Pendulum stretch: You should always start with this exercise. It gently relaxes your shoulder and works to improve mobility. Stand in a slightly bent over position and support the body weight with the unaffected arm on a chair or table. Allow the affected arm to hang down. Gently start to swing the arm in a small circle (a foot in diameter). Perform 10 circles (clockwise and then anti clockwise) in each direction.
Finger walk: Though called finger walk, this exercise actually stretches the shoulder. Standing straight near a wall, keep the fingertips on the wall at waist level and arms slightly bent. Now, slowly walk your fingers up the wall and lengthening the arm as upward as you can. Repeat 10-15 times. Do not push beyond your pain free limit.
Cross-body reach: Sit or stand. Use your good arm to lift your affected arm at the elbow, and bring it up and across your body, exerting gentle pressure to stretch the back of the shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Do this 10 to 20 times per day. Again do not push into pain.
Armpit stretch: Using your good arm, lift the affected arm onto a shelf about breast-high. Gently bend your knees, opening up the armpit. Deepen your knee bend slightly, gently stretching the armpit, and then straighten. With each knee bend, stretch a little further, but don’t force it. Do this 10 to 20 times each day.
Scapula setting: Sitting straight pull your shoulder blades gently back so the scapula are sitting flat on the thoracic cage. Hold this for 10 seconds.
Using a shoulder pulley is actually a much nicer way to maintain your pain free range of movement. We have these at UC Physio so if you want an easier way than these exercises give us a call.
Once you are independent with basic exercises all we have to do is monitor your progress. Call us and let us know if you need any assistance or advice regarding your frozen shoulder, or any other physical issues you might be dealing with.