I am suffering with a frozen shoulder and wondered if any type of exercise would help to alleviate my problem?
Frozen shoulder is still something of a mystery condition: we don’t know what causes it and there’s no cure, but in nine out of 10 cases the shoulder heals itself within two years or so. We do know that some people are more susceptible to frozen shoulder than others, particularly diabetics. Women tend to be more affected than men, and the condition usually appears in your fifties or sixties.
Although you will often find frozen shoulder described as an inflammation, scientists these days believe it’s thickening and scarring of the shoulder tissues that create the condition, leaving your arm stiff and painful. The severity of symptoms varies, but it is common to have very little movement at all in your arm for several months. The pain can also be intense for a while, although it tends to reduce as the shoulder starts to thaw.
While shoulder pain is very common, most of the time it is not frozen shoulder, so always get thoroughly checked out by a physio or medical specialist, because with guidance and the right exercises you will usually be able to clear up your problem.
With a true frozen shoulder, there is no evidence that exercise can speed your recovery. But specific stretching and arm movement exercises can help reduce pain and keep the shoulder as mobile as possible. These exercises should be prescribed by a physiotherapist, osteopath or clinical specialist, not a gym instructor. Do not try to force your arm beyond its natural range and don’t do exercises that cause pain.
However, please don’t think you should abandon normal exercise while your shoulder is frozen. For a start you need to keep up your heart and lung (cardio) fitness. Half an hour’s daily brisk walking would be a minimum. If your arm is painful, try binding it to your body to limit movement while you work out. You may be able to power-walk or even jog on a treadmill this way. A gym cycle workout is an option. Or try a modified form of swimming, such as life-saver kick on your back (legs only) or adapted breast-stroke with the help of a float or aqua-jogger belt for extra flotation.
Second, keep your good arm and shoulder in decent condition. Light strength training might help here. Thirdly, be aware of maintaining good posture. Any loss of the use of a limb will make you lop-sided over time, so you need to keep your stomach and back muscles strong and balanced. An advanced gym instructor or personal trainer can advise on an appropriate programme.
Once your shoulder is back to normal, you should do careful strengthening, both for your weak arm muscles and the delicate muscles that support the shoulder joint.