How Physical Therapy Can Help Release a Frozen Shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis, better known as frozen shoulder, is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in your shoulder. Frozen shoulder is a condition that gradually appears over time, and it is not the result of an injury. Signs and symptoms begin to appear, and slowly worsen over time. So what do you do when you think you have frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is categorized into three stages, all very aptly named.

  • Stage One – Freezing Stage: most shoulder movements will cause pain and range of motion is becoming limited
  • Stage Two – Frozen Stage: pain is not as present as in stage one, however, your shoulder is becoming more stiff; movement is very difficult during this stage
  • Stage Three – Thawing Stage: your range of motion will begin to improve and movement causes little to no pain

These stages can vary in terms of length of time. It can take anywhere from one year to three years to resolve the pain and stiffness from frozen shoulder.

What Causes Frozen Shoulder? 

Frozen shoulder occurs when the capsule of connective tissue that surrounds the shoulder thickens. As it becomes thicker and tighter, it begins to restrict your shoulder’s ability to move.

The cause of the thickening tissue is unclear, but many doctors have concluded that they typically find that people who have recently immobilized their shoulder joint are more likely to experience frozen shoulder. Joint immobilization can be the result of an arm fracture, broken bone, shoulder surgery, mastectomy, etc.

Maintaining mobility in your shoulders can help prevent frozen shoulder, but stretching your hands and wrists can prevent injury too. Check out these hand and wrists exercises that improve mobility.

Treating Frozen Shoulder 

Although self-treating is an option, many opt for physical therapy as it’s more effective. Your physical therapist can guide you through exercises that will help you increase your range of motion. In addition to stretching and strengthening exercises, you may be prescribed corticosteroid injections to help with pain and swelling.

Preventing Frozen Shoulder? 

As we mentioned before, doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes the thickening of the connective tissue that causes frozen shoulder. This makes it a little difficult to prevent. However, doctors have determined that joint immobilization could be a factor. Frequently exercising and stretching your shoulders, especially when recovering from injury or surgery, could help you to maintain your range of motion.


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