Frozen Shoulder Exercises

Shoulder exercises are among the most commonly searched exercises in Google when compared to exercises of other body parts.

In 2006, about 7.5 million people in the US went to the doctor for shoulder problems with more than 4.1 million of these visits for rotator cuff problems. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, shoulder injuries are often caused by repetitive motion activities such as swimming, tennis or weightlifting. Shoulder injuries can also be caused by regular daily activities. An unusual example is when a good friend injured his rotator cuff while on a Mighty Mouse amusement park ride: he had his arms up in the air when the car took a sharp turn causing a high lateral G-force whipping his arms to the side while his body moved in a different direction. Ouch!

The shoulder is the most movable joint in our body but can also be unstable because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it. To remain in a stable or normal position, the shoulder must be anchored by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Common problems according to the US National Library of Medicine include

  • Sprains and strains
  • Dislocations
  • Separations
  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Torn rotator cuffs
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Fractures
  • Arthritis

Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) is often the first treatment for shoulder problems. However, prolonged rest or lack of motion in your shoulder can lead to a Frozen Shoulder. The Cleveland Clinic recommends that the “chance of a frozen shoulder can be prevented or at least lessened if physical therapy is started shortly after any shoulder injury in which shoulder movement is painful or difficult”.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons shares some example stretches that can be done at home to help with a frozen shoulder. Variations of these can be found in PT-Helper’s exercise library.

  • Wand External Rotation – While lying on your back, hold a wand with your involved side palm up and un-involved side palm down, elbows bent. Using your un-involved hand, move the wand away from your body while keeping your elbow of your involved side at your side until you feel a stretch. Hold then pull the staff back across your body back to your starting position. Hold then repeat.
  • Active Assisted Supine Flexion – While lying down on your back, grasp your hand or forearm with your opposite hand. Raise arms up and overhead as far as comfortable to feel a stretch in the affected shoulder. Hold, then return to starting position.
  • Posterior Capsule Stretch – Cross one arm over your body and grasp at elbow with opposite arm. Gently pull hand towards opposite shoulder. Hold, then gently release. Your therapist may advise you to perform laying on your side, or leaning against a wall. Do not perform this exercise if you feel a sharp pinch in the front of your shoulder. Stretch should be felt in the back of your shoulder.

You can find these exercises in the Shoulder category in the PT-Helper mobile app to add to your Favorites which allows you to customize each exercise’s repetitions, sets, and hold time.

Reminder: Please consult your physician or physical therapist before engaging in any physical activity and stop if you experience pain or discomfort.

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