Does Physical Therapy for Frozen Shoulder Help?
Have you ever woken up and found that you couldn’t move your arm well? Or tried to reach for something and felt a sharp pain in your shoulder? If so, you may be experiencing a frozen shoulder.
Physical therapy for frozen shoulders goes a long way in helping you regain movement and functional use of your shoulder. A frozen shoulder is a condition where the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful.
The condition is also known as adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder. Frozen shoulders typically come on gradually. It may be caused by an injury or overuse of the shoulder. It can also be a side effect of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Treatment for a frozen shoulder typically includes physical therapy and, in some cases, surgery. In this article, we’ll discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatments for a frozen shoulder. We’ll also provide some tips on exercises you can do at home to help relieve your symptoms.
What is Frozen Shoulder?
A frozen shoulder results from inflammation of the tissues around the shoulder joint. This inflammation makes it difficult for the shoulder to move. The condition is often accompanied by pain and discomfort.
There are two types of frozen shoulder: Primary frozen shoulder, which occurs without an obvious cause, and secondary frozen shoulder, which is caused by another condition, such as diabetes, a stroke, or surgery.
Frozen shoulders typically occur in people ages 40 and older. It’s more common in women than men.
Frozen Shoulder Symptoms
Pain is the most common symptom of a frozen shoulder. This pain may be constant or may only occur when you move your shoulder. You may also feel pain in your upper arm and neck. The pain may be mild at first but can gradually become more severe. Other symptoms of a frozen shoulder include:
- Stiffness in the shoulder.
- Difficulty moving the shoulder.
- Weakness in the arm.
- A grating sensation when the shoulder is moved.
As the condition progresses, you may find it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as combing your hair or getting dressed.
The 4 Stages of Frozen Shoulder
Stage 1: The initial stage is characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder. The shoulder is still able to move, but the range of motion is limited. This stage typically lasts for 3 months.
Stage 2: In the second stage, the shoulder becomes increasingly stiff. This stage, also known as the painful or freezing stage, makes functional activities which include reaching overhead difficult to do. The range of motion continues to decrease. This stage typically lasts for 3 to 9 months.
Stage 3: The third stage is known as the frozen stage. The pain may persist as the shoulder becomes very stiff and difficult to move. This stage may persist for 9 to 15 months.
Stage 4: The final stage is known as the thawing stage. The range of motion in the shoulder begins to improve though stiffness may continue. Usually, this may last for 15 to 24 months.
Treatments for Frozen Shoulder
The goal of treatment for a frozen shoulder is to reduce pain and improve the range of motion. Treatment typically begins with nonsurgical methods, such as physical therapy and pain medication. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is often the first line of treatment for a frozen shoulder. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tissues around your shoulder.
The pain in your shoulder can be reduced and the range of motion improved while engaging in these exercises. Most people will need to do physical therapy for two to three months. Some people may need therapy for longer.
Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help reduce pain and inflammation. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe a more powerful drug.
How Long Does Physical Therapy Take For Frozen Shoulders?
Most people will need to do physical therapy for two to three months. Some people may need therapy for longer. Some people may find that their symptoms improve after just a few weeks of physical therapy. Also, many people find that their symptoms continue to improve even after they stop physical therapy.
What is Frozen Shoulder Surgery Recovery Time?
Recovery from frozen shoulder surgery typically takes several months. During this time, you will need to do physical therapy to regain the range of motion in your shoulder.
This is a decision that should be made between you and your doctor. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the decision will depend on your situation. However, surgery may be an option if nonsurgical treatments have not helped or if your condition is severe.
Frozen Shoulder Exercises
Exercises are an important part of treatment for a frozen shoulder. They can help reduce pain and improve the range of motion. Your physical therapist can design a specific exercise program for you. Some exercises that may be recommended include:
Shoulder stretches: These exercises help stretch the muscles and tissues around your shoulder. This is how it’s done:
- Put your arm across your chest.
- Use your other hand to pull your arm in closer to your chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat 3 times.
- Perform this exercise multiple times per day.
Pendulum exercises: These exercises help stretch the shoulder capsule. This is how it’s done:
- While standing, hold onto a sturdy object for support.
- Lean forward and let your arm hang down.
- In a gentle manner, rock your body weight front to back, then side to side letting your arm swing freely like a pendulum
- Increase the time each day until you can do the exercise for 2 to 4 minutes.
- Perform this exercise multiple times per day.
Is Physical Therapy Right for Your Frozen Shoulder?
Physical therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for frozen shoulders.