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What is a Frozen Shoulder?

The medical name for frozen shoulder is adhesive


capsulitis.

FROZEN SHOULDER - Information for Patients

This information on this handout does not seek to replace advice from a medical professional. If in doubt speak to your GP/physiotherapist. All exercises and advice given on this handout are undertaken at the risk of the individual.

A frozen shoulder is where the capsule around the joint


becomes tight and restricts movement. The shoulder also
becomes very painful. There is no actual change in the
temperature of the joint.
Frozen shoulder is a condition that is self-limiting. This means that it will get better
by itself although there are some treatments that can help to manage the pain. A
frozen shoulder can last anywhere from 9 months to 3+ years.

What causes Frozen Shoulder?


It is not really known what causes a frozen shoulder. A frozen shoulder can develop
for no apparent reason or can develop following an injury to the shoulder.
It usually occurs in people aged between 40-60 although people of other ages can
still get it. It is more common in women than men and also more common in people
who have diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder:


Frozen shoulder has three phases:

The painful or freezing phase: there is usually a gradual onset of pain. The pain
is usually a constant ache with sharp pain if the shoulder is moved or knocked
by something. The pain may be worse at night.

The stiff or frozen phase: the pain begins to ease although the movement is
still limited. It is important to begin exercises at this stage to try to regain some
movement.

The resolving or thawing stage: the movement begins to return slowly. It is


important to continue the exercises at this stage to encourage more movement
of the shoulder.

How is Frozen Shoulder treated?


It is important to keep using your arm as normally as possible, as the pain allows, to
prevent the shoulder from becoming any stiffer.
Some people find warmth (e.g. a hot water bottle or wheat-bag) helpful.
An ice pack (a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp tea-towel) applied to the
shoulder area for 10 minutes twice a day can help in the painful phase.
Anti-Inflammatory tablets or gels/creams may be helpful. Talk to your GP or
pharmacist for further information and advice.
Painkillers may also be useful - talk to your GP or pharmacist for further information
and advice.
A steroid injection into the painful area can relieve the pain. For some people the
pain never returns after having a steroid injection, however for some the relief from
pain only lasts for a short while. An injection is usually best done in the painful stage
of a frozen shoulder.
Produced by Loughborough Physiotherapy Department May 2010

Exercises:

FROZEN SHOULDER - Information for Patients

This information on this handout does not seek to replace advice from a medical professional. If in doubt speak to your GP/physiotherapist. All exercises and advice given on this handout are undertaken at the risk of the individual.

The aim of the exercises is to stretch the shoulder joint capsule and prevent the
shoulder from becoming any stiffer. (Please note that in these exercises, the affected
arm is the right). Repeat the exercises 2-3 times daily.

1. Pendulum
Stand leaning on a stable surface (e.g. kitchen worktop) with your
affected arm dangling down towards the floor. Swing the affected
arm forwards and backwards, side to side and round in circles.
Do 1 minute in each direction.
(Movement should be like a pendulum).

2. Walking Fingers
Stand facing a wall. Walk your fingers up the wall as far as is
possible as pain allows and slowly walk back down again.
Repeat 5-10 times.

The following exercises stretch the shoulder capsule and can be quite provocative. Do
these stretches gently. They are best performed in the last stage of healing as the
shoulder is resolving. Stop if they are flaring up your symptoms.

3. Shoulder Stretch a)
Place your hand on the opposite shoulder and support your elbow
with your other hand. Push your elbow with the other hand to feel
a stretch at the back of your shoulder.
Hold 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times.

4. Shoulder Stretch b)
Try to reach behind you back with your arm. Using your other hand
to help gently pull the arm up and across your back with your good
hand to feel a stretch in the shoulder.
Hold 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times.

5. Lateral Rotation
Hold a walking stick/broom in both hands and put a towel under
your elbow. Keeping your elbows by your side, push the stick out to
the side, turning your arm out to feel a stretch in your shoulder.
Hold 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times.
Produced by Loughborough Physiotherapy Department May 2010