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The do’s and don'ts of frozen shoulder syndrome

The do’s and don'ts of frozen shoulder syndrome
3 minutes, 42 seconds

Frozen shoulder syndrome, also called adhesive capsulitis, affects up to 5% of people around the world. This painful condition can cause shoulder immobility for up to two years

While the causes of frozen shoulder syndrome are largely unknown, you may be more likely to develop it if your shoulder has been in the same position for a long period of time. For example, keeping your shoulder still after a surgery or fracture can increase your risk of developing frozen shoulder syndrome. Women are also more likely to develop it than men. 

The symptoms of frozen shoulder syndrome can include: 

  • Shoulder pain that worsens at night. 
  • Gradual loss of shoulder mobility. 
  • Stiffness or achiness. 
  • Swelling. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with frozen shoulder syndrome, it can be important for you to understand the do’s and don’ts of your condition. Doing so can make it easier for you to find an effective treatment plan and prevent further injury.

What is frozen shoulder syndrome?

Frozen shoulder syndrome is caused by inflammation of the posterior capsule, or the fluid-filled sac that lubricates the shoulder joint. Usually, the posterior capsule allows for a healthy range of motion and helps limit joint stiffness. Frozen shoulder syndrome can occur when the posterior capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting its movement. 

Frozen shoulder patients often go through three stages of symptoms: pain, stiffness and recovery. The recovery process can last anywhere from several months to several years. Frozen shoulder patients often go through the following stages:

  • Freezing stage — In this stage, any shoulder movement may cause you pain. Your shoulder’s mobility is also limited. You could be in this stage between two and nine months.
  • Frozen stage — You may notice less pain during this stage, but your shoulder becomes stiffer, making it increasingly difficult to complete daily tasks. You can be in this stage for four to 12 months.
  • Thawing stage — In this stage, your shoulder mobility begins to improve. You could be in the thawing stage for five to 24 months.

Thankfully, physical therapy can play a major role in frozen shoulder recovery and can help lessen the amount of time you spend in each stage. 

The do’s of frozen shoulder syndrome

Many at-home and in-clinic treatments can help you recover from frozen shoulder syndrome faster. If you have frozen shoulder syndrome, you should: 

  • Go to physical therapy. According to a study, frozen shoulder patients who used physical therapy with anti-inflammatory medication had a 90% success rate. According to the same study, as little as four weeks of targeted physical therapy improved patients’ shoulder pain and strength. 
  • Use heat.Heat therapy can help increase blood flow to your injury and boost your healing process. One study even showed that heat can be an effective way to relieve frozen shoulder pain and improve patients’ range of motion.
  • Be patient. 

Recovery from frozen shoulder syndrome can take a long time. It is therefore important to be emotionally prepared to receive effective treatment, and to also know that results will not appear overnight. Your shoulder needs time to reduce inflammation and heal. 

The don’ts of frozen shoulder syndrome

Some habits can worsen your frozen shoulder syndrome. As a result, the don’ts of frozen shoulder syndrome recovery can include the following:

  • Don’t remain immobile.Keeping your shoulder still for long periods of time may prolong your frozen shoulder syndrome symptoms. Instead, stretches that target your inflamed shoulder can help release tension around your posterior capsule. Range-of-motion exercises can also encourage your shoulder to regain mobility.
  • Don’t abruptly move your arm or shoulder. While your shoulder is healing, sudden movement can cause intense pain. No matter what stage you’re in, your shoulder is vulnerable. Avoid quickly moving your shoulder and arm up or down, and avoid environments in which you may easily bump your shoulder against people or objects. 
  • Don’t sleep on your frozen shoulder.

Many people with frozen shoulder syndrome have a hard time sleeping because of pain. However, it’s important to avoid tossing and turning on your affected shoulder, as this can increase your discomfort. You can try taking anti-inflammatory medication to help you sleep at night and help your shoulder heal during deep sleep. 

Alliance PTP can help you understand the do’s and don’ts of frozen shoulder syndrome

You don’t have to deal with your frozen shoulder symptoms alone. At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you learn the do’s and don’ts of frozen shoulder syndrome. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your condition.

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