Dos and Don’ts for Frozen Shoulder

Mar 31, 2022

Dos and Don’ts for Frozen ShoulderFrozen shoulder is the more common name for a condition called adhesive capsulitis. If you start to experience a reduced range of motion in your shoulder, then you may be dealing with frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is common among people between the ages of 40 and 60 or if you are recovering from a recent shoulder injury. This shoulder condition can make it difficult to use your shoulder like you normally would. Talk to your doctor if you experience a sudden onset of stiffness and pain in your shoulder. Your doctor may recommend treatment, including physical therapy services to help with frozen shoulder. Here are some dos and don’ts for frozen shoulder to help support a healthy recovery:

Don’t Ignore Frozen Shoulder Symptoms

The first sign of frozen shoulder will likely be pain. You may start to notice your shoulder is hurting more than usual, especially when you perform regular activities like reaching, stretching, or carrying something. Pain in your shoulder will cause you to restrict your movements. The less you move your shoulder, the more the stiffness will start to set in. Pain and stiffness are the two most common frozen shoulder symptoms. As pain and stiffness continue to bother your shoulder, certain activities you used to do without issue may become excruciating or impossible. If pain and stiffness are starting to set in, then don’t ignore these symptoms. Talk to your doctor before the pain and stiffness get worse and start to impact your everyday tasks and routines.

Do Talk to Your Doctor About Shoulder Pain

Talk to your doctor about any pain and stiffness you are experiencing in your shoulder. Your doctor will perform a physical exam of the affected shoulder. They will also be able to test your range of motion, which can help determine what stage of frozen shoulder you are at. Your doctor may want to see you perform certain movements with your non-injured shoulder to get a clear baseline for your typical range of motion. Comparing the range of motion in both shoulders can help inform the diagnosis of adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. Some specific movements your doctor may request include touching your hand to your opposite shoulder or rotating your hand above your head and to the side. When you talk to your doctor about shoulder pain like frozen shoulder, they may also want to run diagnostic imaging tests like an X-ray or CT scan to rule out other potential shoulder injuries that may be causing you pain.

Don’t Skip Physical Therapy for Frozen Shoulder

Physical therapy services are a commonly recommended treatment for frozen shoulder. When your shoulder loses range of motion, it can also become weakened due to reduced usage. A physical therapist can help reduce your pain and stiffness while also improving your strength and mobility in the affected shoulder. Physical therapy will incorporate stretches and exercises to address frozen shoulder. Stretching the shoulder joint will help stiff, sore muscles and soft tissues that support the joint. Exercises will help improve strength in your shoulder joint and the surrounding muscles that support your shoulder and arm. Exercises will also improve your range of motion by reintroducing healthy movements and flexibility to your stiff shoulder. Maintaining a regular physical therapy routine will help you improve from frozen shoulder faster.

Do Regularly Use Your Affected Shoulder

When frozen shoulder is causing you pain, your natural instinct may be to stop using that shoulder and arm. However, when you don’t regularly use the affected shoulder, you actually end up making the pain and stiffness worse. Resting your shoulder for too long can cause the muscles and soft tissues that support your shoulder joint to become weakened. In fact, the longer you keep your shoulder joint immobile, the more chance the shoulder capsule has to thicken and tighten. Instead, engage in regular activities approved by your doctor or physical therapist. Stretches, exercises, and range of motion activities can help keep your shoulder moving safely and prevent the shoulder capsule from causing too much stiffness.

Don’t Perform Activities That Cause Pain

While you work on improving the range of motion in your shoulder, you want to avoid activities that make your pain worse. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist if any treatments or activities are actually causing you more pain. Sudden jerking or jarring motions can make your shoulder pain worse and put more strain on your muscles. With physical therapy, you will start to see improvements in your shoulder mobility. However, pushing yourself too hard through stretches and exercises without your doctor’s approval can result in more harm or injury to the shoulder.

Do Practice Healthy Posture

You may be surprised at how much your posture can impact frozen shoulder. Focusing on your posture is especially important while you sleep because frozen shoulder pain can get worse at night. Your posture and sleeping position can end up putting too much pressure on the affected shoulder. If you are typically a side sleeper, then try sleeping only on the unaffected shoulder side. Whether you are sleeping or awake, try to keep your shoulders down and back as part of a healthy posture. Tensing your shoulders up can aggravate the muscles in your shoulders and back. Slouching or slumping can also put a strain on your muscles and impact your posture.

Frozen Shoulder Causes

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint comprised of bones, ligaments, and tendons. Your shoulder blade, collarbone, and arm bone connect through the shoulder joint and allow for movement. Frozen shoulder occurs when the protective capsule that supports the joint thickens and tightens. Here are examples of common frozen shoulder causes:

Shoulder & Arm Injuries

A shoulder injury like a torn rotator cuff may require reduced mobility for the treatment and healing process. Any injury to the shoulder that requires reduced mobility or immobility can put you at higher risk for developing frozen shoulder. The longer the shoulder is not in use, the higher your chances are of developing pain and stiffness in the joint. A broken arm may also require reduced mobility or immobility while it heals. Whether you are in a cast or sling, you may have limited motion in your shoulder joint during that time. If a shoulder or arm injury requires surgery, you may also need additional time for recovery.

Joint Inflammation

Inflammation in the joints can lead to pain and stiffness. When the soft tissues that make up the shoulder capsule become inflamed, it can lead to frozen shoulder. Swelling and inflammation may occur in the shoulder joint due to injury or overuse. A sudden injury to the shoulder joint can lead to inflammation. Repetitive movements like a tennis serve or throwing a ball can put a strain on the joint and lead to swelling and inflammation. Frozen shoulder is one of the common shoulder injuries in tennis players.

Systemic Diseases

Certain diseases can also make you more susceptible to dealing with frozen shoulder. These systemic diseases may include diabetes, an overactive or underactive thyroid, cardiovascular disease, and Parkinson’s disease. If you have one or more of these conditions and are dealing with shoulder pain and stiffness, talk to your doctor about frozen shoulder and your options for treatment.

Frozen Shoulder Treatment

Pain and stiffness of frozen shoulder can affect you for years without treatment. Thankfully, treatment options for frozen shoulder can help significantly reduce your pain and discomfort. From pain medication to physical therapy, there are many options for frozen shoulder treatment. The most common treatment option for frozen shoulder is physical therapy. This type of treatment can help with your pain while also addressing your range of motion. A physical therapist will assess how your mobility has been impacted by frozen shoulder and provide you with helpful stretches and exercises to reduce pain and stiffness in your shoulder. At-home remedies like alternating ice and heat can also help soothe stiff shoulder muscles and reduce your pain. Your physical therapist may also talk you through stretches and exercises you can continue at home for added pain relief. Surgery is also an option for more severe cases of frozen shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder Pain Relief at Night

Addressing frozen shoulder during your day will help relieve your symptoms at night. But if frozen shoulder pain and stiffness is keeping you up at night, there are options that can help. Avoid sleeping on the side where you are experiencing frozen shoulder. Instead, try sleeping on your back with your affected shoulder and arm propped up with a pillow. Place a pillow under your elbow and rest your hand on your chest or stomach to keep from rolling onto the affected shoulder. Talk to your physical therapist about stretches and exercises you can do before bed for frozen shoulder pain relief at night.

Visit AICA Orthopedics in Jonesboro for comprehensive physical therapy services. At AICA Orthopedics, our team of doctors includes orthopedists, chiropractors, neurologists, and physical therapists who can provide you with the quality treatment and care you need to experience lasting relief from frozen shoulder. Visit us online or call to schedule an appointment with a Jonesboro physical therapist at AICA today!


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