Frozen Shoulder Exercises - What You Need to Know

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. Frozen shoulder is the result of inflammation, scarring, thickening, and shrinkage of the capsule that surrounds the normal shoulder joint. Any injury to the shoulder can lead to a frozen shoulder, including tendinitis, bursitis, and rotator cuff injury (rotator cuff syndrome). Frozen shoulders occur more frequently in patients with risk factors of diabetes, chronic inflammatory arthritis of the shoulder, or after chest or breast surgery. Long-term immobility of the shoulder joint can put people at risk to develop a frozen shoulder.

When someone is diagnosed with frozen shoulder, it is essential that he or she start doing the proper frozen shoulder exercises immediately to prevent the shoulder from getting worse. The key is to perform a well rounded program that includes four types of exercises – stretching, strengthening, and range of motion exercises as well as targeted soft-tissue work.

Combining these kinds of exercise in a well thought out program will allow all of the important areas of the shoulder complex (which includes your shoulder muscles and the actual joint) to start working and functioning normally again. It is never enough to do only stretching as many programs have you do. While stretching is essential, without adding strength work, range of motion and soft-tissue work, the chances of “curing” the frozen shoulder are minimal.

Frozen Shoulder Exercises: Strength Training

A well thought out rehab program includes strengthening of all of the muscles both in and around the shoulder joint to help it move normally and regain proper movement. Light weights, resistance bands, and tubing, as well as your own body weight can be used for this kind of strengthening. Many people and therapists leave out targeted strengthening that is very important to get the entire shoulder joint and surrounding areas to move properly again and also have the basic strength to protect the joint from further pain and injury.

Frozen Shoulder Exercises: Mobility

Teaching the shoulder complex to move again in all normal ranges of motion is also very important. The shoulder joint moves freely in many directions. It is essential to get all of those movements back to normal when rehabbing a frozen shoulder. Most people do not realize that each movement that the shoulder joint is able to do, indirectly influences the other motions. Therefore, it is essential that the patient is able to move the shoulder joint in all areas to the best of his or her ability. Many traditional therapy programs focus on a few “core” motions, and while these motions are important, they are not the only motions that someone with a frozen shoulder needs to work on getting back. It is just as important to work the other motions as well. Even if the patient has lost only one or two motions, working on all of the available mobility is very important.

Frozen Shoulder Exercises: Stretching

Stretching in all directions and with all muscles in and around the shoulder joint is also key. A good frozen shoulder exercise program will include a multitude of stretches in all directions. Stretching involves the elongation of the muscle and tendons. The shoulder complex has many muscles that not only directly surround the actual joint, but also muscles that are connected to the entire area. It is important that all of these muscles are stretched. Proper muscle and tendon “health” will not be achieved without a proper stretching program. Like the range of motion exercises, stretching needs to be done to all of the muscles and muscle tendons, in all directions to achieve true success in getting rid of a frozen shoulder. It is also very important not to over stretch the muscles and other soft tissue in the beginning. Following a proper, progressive therapy program is key in making sure that this doesn’t happen.

Frozen Shoulder Exercises: Targeted Soft Tissue Work

Targeted soft tissue work is essentially a deep massage that you can do yourself; what I call poor man’s massage. Working on the soft-tissue (i.e.muscles, tendons, connective tissue, skin, etc…) that surrounds the shoulder joint is vital. Whether it is in the form of a deep tissue massage, self myofascial release, or active release therapy of the tissue, keeping the soft tissue healthy and working properly is another key to improving your frozen shoulder. Good targeted soft-tissue work is also important in getting rid of tightness and pain that is associated with frozen shoulder. Many people benefit from targeted soft-tissue work early on just to deal effectively with pain and this allows greater movement and faster improvement in symptoms.

Successful rehab for frozen shoulder can be done in the comfort of your own home just 3 days a week if you are following a program that incorporates these 4 key components – increasing shoulder strength, flexibility, range of motion, and while decreasing knots and muscle hot spots.

Categories: Chiropractic