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How Physiotherapy Helps Treat Frozen Shoulders 

How Physiotherapy Helps Treat Frozen Shoulders 
Written by Guest Author

A frozen shoulder can be a very painful medical condition and can have a serious impact on your overall quality of life. Physiotherapy can be used in order to help treat frozen shoulders. Physiotherapy is designed to maintain and restore the patient’s full range of motion and flexibility.

Pain and discomfort will be reduced so that the patient can return to their optimal quality of life after a few sessions. No drugs are used in physiotherapy, nor are any invasive procedures involved.

Causes of Frozen Shoulders

A frozen shoulder is medically known as adhesive capsulitis. It is a medical condition that involves pain and stiffness in the shoulder joints. Frozen shoulders also have 3 distinct stages.

The first stage is the painful or freezing stage. Pain will slowly increase, especially during the night. Your shoulder will also become increasingly restricted. The first stage can last anywhere from six weeks to nine months.

The stiff or frozen stage will involve a reduction in pain. However, your shoulder will still feel very stiff. Stage 2 will last between six and nine months.

Stage 3 is known as the thawing or unfreezing stage. You will notice your shoulder movement becoming easier. Pain will also disappear completely and most patients will be able to resume their normal exercises. Stage 3 can last anywhere from six months to two years.

Frozen shoulders can be caused by a stroke, shoulder surgery or by trauma, such as falling down. Frozen shoulders have also been linked to diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease and even Parkinson’s.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulders

The most common symptoms are stiffness and pain. Limited motion of the shoulders is usually experienced, along with painful and/or uncomfortable sleep. You may also notice sharp and sudden pain from even the smallest of movements.

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How Physiotherapy Helps Treat Frozen Shoulders 

Benefits of Physiotherapy on Frozen Shoulders

When you make an appointment with a physical therapist, they will fully examine you. They will go over your medical history and will test your flexibility, movement and posture. They will also test your joint and muscle performance and motion.

The pendulum stretch involves standing next to a table that reaches your waist. Place your uninjured hand on the table for support. The injured arm should be left to dangle. Lean forward but ensure that your back is not rounded.

Next, swing the injured arm in small circles. Form 10 revolutions in one direction. Next, reverse and form 10 revolutions in the opposite direction.

The finger walk involves standing while facing a wall in your house. Touch the wall above your waist using the middle and index fingers of the injured hand. Proceed to move the fingers up the wall until the injured arm is raised to its maximum reach level.

The inward rotation involves a rubber band that is tied at the ends. One end of the formed loop should be placed around the handle of your door. Your injured arm should be closest to the door as you stand to the side of it.

Proceed to pull the band inward towards you (3 to 4 inches), and then hold the position for a few seconds.

To perform the sleeper stretch, lie down on the side of the injured arm. Proceed to bend the arm so that it forms a ninety-degree angle. Use the other hand to push the injured arm towards the floor. Perform the stretch exercise twice a day, holding each stretch for 45 seconds.

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Lie on a flat surface in order to perform the supine (lying down) flexion. Relax your arms by the sides of your body. The affected arm should be lifted vertically and backwards towards the floor using your other arm. Continue to reach until you feel a stretch.

Use a cane or bar to perform a standing extension. Hold the device horizontally behind you as you stand in an upright manner. Proceed to lift both arms until you feel a stretch. Hold each repetition for 3 seconds and repeat each exercise about a dozen times.

To perform a cross the body stretch, both of your arms must be relaxed and placed by the sides of your body while sitting or standing. 

The affected arm should then be brought across your chest. Your unaffected hand should be used to hold the elbow of the injured arm. Hold the stretch position for about twenty seconds.

The doorway external rotation involves standing near a doorway while facing a side of the frame. Bend your injured arm and then grab the edge of the frame that is furthest from you using your injured hand.

Proceed to rotate your body so that your back is now facing the doorway instead of one of the door frames. Hold this stance for half a minute, relax and then repeat as needed.

Your physiotherapist may suggest some or all of these exercises and techniques in order to treat your frozen shoulder.

If the exercises fail to treat your frozen shoulder then corticosteroid injections may be recommended in order to alleviate pain and stiffness. Joint distension is yet another possible treatment or, if your case is severe, the physiotherapist may refer you to a surgeon. 

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Shoulder manipulation may also help some patients who suffer from frozen shoulders.

A physiotherapist helps people with a wide array of musculoskeletal conditions and ailments, including frozen shoulders.

There Is Help

You do not need to suffer in silence. Frozen shoulders can cause intense pain and stiffness that can make it impossible to live a normal life. A physiotherapist will be able to treat your frozen shoulders without the need for powerful painkillers and/or invasive procedures in most cases.

In fact, shoulder surgery can actually cause frozen shoulders to develop over time. Your therapist will teach you exercises that you can do at home and that do not require any special equipment.

They will also teach you how to prevent frozen shoulders from reoccurring in the future via a maintenance regime.


Erin Gregory is a blogger in Toronto. She is currently working as a Community Manager for several small businesses. She has graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.


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