Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It occurs when the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint becomes thickened and tight, restricting motion and causing discomfort. Performing certain exercises can help restore mobility and function to a frozen shoulder.

This article outlines some of the most beneficial stretches and strengthening moves to incorporate into your frozen shoulder exercise routine.

Understanding Frozen Shoulder

Before diving into the exercises, it’s helpful to understand what exactly causes a frozen shoulder. Here’s a quick overview:

Capsule thickening: The capsule is the sac of fluid and tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint. Inflammation and scar tissue cause it to stiffen and thicken.
Limited range of motion:
The tight capsule restricts how far you can move your arm and shoulder. Attempting to move past those limits causes pain.
Immobility complications:
Not using the shoulder can cause adhesion development, where scar tissue binds to the joint. This worsens the already-limited mobility.

The good news is that diligent stretching and strengthening can break down adhesions, stretch the joint capsule, and often resolve a frozen shoulder. However, it takes time and consistency.

Helpful Equipment

You can perform most frozen shoulder exercises without any extra equipment. However, the following tools can enhance your workout:

  • Resistance bands provide added intensity to strengthen exercises
  • Light dumbbells or hand weights likewise enable progressive strength training
  • Foam roller: helps apply pressure to ease muscle tension before or after exercising
  • Yoga strap: assists in stretching moves that are difficult to perform otherwise
  • Chair or bench: serves as a prop for modified exercises requiring seated or standing support
Exercises for Frozen shoulder

10 Best Frozen Shoulder Exercises

Incorporating a mix of flexibility and strength training is key in combating a frozen shoulder. Here are 10 of the most effective exercises:

  1. Pendulum Swings
    Gently swing arm in circular motions to mobilize the shoulder. Progress to larger circles over time.
  2. Shoulder Shrugs
    Lift shoulders up toward ears, hold briefly, then relax down. Repeat 10-15 times.
  3. Isometric External Rotation
    Hold arm close to body with elbow bent 90 degrees. Push hand outward into an imaginary wall for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
  4. Passive Internal Rotation Stretch
    Use other arm to gently push affected arm across body at various heights, feeling stretch in back of shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, 2-3 times each.
  5. Wall Slides
    Stand with back flat against wall. Slowly slide arms overhead toward wall, lowering to comfortable height. Repeat 10 times.
  6. Standing Forward Bend
    Interlace fingers behind back, straighten arms fully, then hinge forward at hips to stretch chest and front of shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds, 2-3 times.
  7. Corner Stretch
    Face corner, bend forward arm 90 degrees and rest forearm on wall. Twist body away from corner to stretch shoulder capsule. Hold 30-60 seconds.
  8. External Rotation with Band
    Tie resistance band handle near side of chair back. Grasp handle and pull arm straight out to the side, keeping elbow bent 90 degrees. Repeat 10-15 times.
  9. Internal Rotation with Band
    Position the handle on the chair side behind you. Grasp the handle and pull the arm diagonally across the body, keeping the elbow bent 90 degrees. Repeat 10-15 times.
  10. Scapular Squeeze
    Hold arms straight out to sides or bent at elbows. Pinch the shoulder blades together, hold for 3 seconds, and relax. Repeat 10 times.
    Be sure to stretch and strengthen all planes of motion. Move through your comfortable range slowly and carefully.

Stop any exercise that causes sharp joint pain. Consult a physical therapist if you have any concerns.

Executing a Balanced Routine

When putting together your own frozen shoulder exercise regimen, keep these tips in mind:

Warm up appropriately – Spend at least 5-10 minutes warming tissues with gentle stretches and pendulum swings before diving into more intense exercises.

Prioritize stretching – Focus heavily on regaining range of motion before adding lots of strengthening.

Train to tolerance – Progress intensity slowly and listen to your body. More is not necessarily better, especially initially.

Allow for rest and recovery – Schedule rest days between training days to allow tissues time to adapt without overstressing the area.

Be consistent – Perform exercises daily or at minimum every other day to see the best results long term.

Track your progress – Note your starting point and periodically reassess range of motion and strength so you can appreciate your improvements.

Consult a physical therapist – If you experience no change or worsening pain after several weeks, seek professional help perfecting your exercise routine.

Lifestyle Modifications

While an exercise program is critical for combating a frozen shoulder, your daily habits also impact your progress. Here are some additional tips:

Avoid overusing arm – Take frequent breaks if performing repetitive upper body tasks for work or leisure.

Manage pain and inflammation – Ice shoulder for 15 minutes after exercise sessions to prevent excessive inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medication can also help control pain.

Watch your posture – Stand and sit tall, avoiding hunching shoulders which worsens capsular tightness.

Reduce stress – High stress can exacerbate muscular tension and stiffness. Make time for relaxing activities each day.

Get adequate rest – Prioritize sleep since tissue healing largely occurs during rest periods.

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet – Foods like fish, nuts, olive oil, and leafy greens help control inflammation. Limit sugar which can increase it.

Be patient with yourself throughout the recovery process. Commit to consistency with both your exercise routine and lifestyle changes for optimal frozen shoulder rehabilitation.

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