Can exercise help my frozen shoulder?

Jane mugshot for JQAI 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.

Increase Text Size Increase Text Size

Add your thoughts