Have you been diagnosed with frozen shoulder? You might want to take this diagnosis with a pinch of salt.

Frozen shoulder is commonly used as a generic diagnosis for any type of stiff or painful shoulder but it’s actually a medical term for restricted movement that’s specifically due to involvement of the capsule that surrounds the ball and socket of the shoulder joint.

Shoulder pain - image of the shoulder joint

A thorough physical examination is needed to rule out all other types of shoulder condition before a diagnosis of frozen shoulder can be made and an x-ray is unlikely to show anything wrong.

If you do have a true frozen shoulder you are likely to be experiencing pain around this the shoulder joint and your movements may be becoming gradually more restricted. It may also be very painful if you try to sleep on your affected shoulder.

First aid for a frozen shoulder

  • Painkillers – They key thing in the early stage is pain control. Speak to your GP about taking regular pain medication. This will help you sleep better and help you to move your shoulder more normally to prevent stiffness developing. A steroid injection might also be recommended.
  • Neck movements – pain around your affected shoulder can cause protective muscle spasm to develop in your neck muscles. Gentle daily neck movement can help to prevent your neck from becoming stiff and sore as well. Take your chin down to your chest until you feel a gentle stretch, return to the centre. Repeat this by looking round over each shoulder. Repeat 5 movements each direction a couple of times a day or anytime you feel tightness in your neck.
  • Shoulder movements – it’s important to keep your shoulder moving while it’s healing. Move within a comfort zone, little and often throughout the day. Try these exercises:

 Pendular movements

pendular shoulder stretch for pain relief

Lean forwards and lean on a support with your good side. ‘Dangle’ your affected arm and try to relax the muscles around your shoulder. Move your body to swing your arm like a pendulum in circles, forwards and backwards and across your body.

Assisted shoulder stretch

frozen shoulder stretch physiotherapy in Cambridge

Keep your arm bent at the elbow, take hold of your elbow with your unaffected side and gently help to lift your arm upwards. Hold into a gentle stretch for 5 seconds then return. Repeat 5 times.

Dumb waiter

physio stretch for frozen shoulder

Bend your elbows and move your hands out to the sides keeping your elbows in contact with your ribs. Repeat 10 times.

About 60% of people who have recovered from a frozen shoulder will lack a small amount of movement on the affected side. However, this usually isn’t a problem and the majority of people find that they don’t need the perfect range to achieve everything they want to be doing.

Early treatment is the key to a better outcome. Physiotherapy can help in a number of ways to relieve shoulder pain, improve movement and teach you a targeted exercise program to work on at home.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions,

The Physiofit Team!