Do’s and Don’ts for Frozen Shoulder

  Reviewed
 by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.
Reviewed by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.

SuperHumans are the toughest, fittest, healthiest and happiest human beings on this planet. My mission is to help you realize your superhuman potential and learn how to live a long, happy and healthy life.

  Fact Checked
 by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT
Reviewed by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT

I’m a content organizer, fact-checker and super mom who ensures content is medically-reviewed, highly accurate, and engaging. My passion is organizing information and ensuring the facts are presented in a manner that is interesting and easy to understand.

do's and don'ts for frozen shoulder

Is your frozen shoulder making it impossible for you to do simple day to day tasks? Is the pain and discomfort too much to handle for you to not be bothered? If so, then you’re at the right place.

Let’s find out what a frozen shoulder is, how it is caused, symptoms, and the most common do’s and don’ts for frozen shoulder.

What Exactly Is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also called as adhesive capsulitis, is a common condition in which the patient experiences loss of movement, stiffness, and pain in the shoulder joint. The condition can sometimes last for years if left untreated, making everyday activities seem like an uphill battle for the patient.

Unfortunately, the precise cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, but it is often seen in people in the age group of 40 to 60. Furthermore, it is noted that women are more likely to be affected by frozen shoulders than men.

A frozen shoulder is caused when the capsule of the shoulder, which is a healthy connective tissue, becomes inflamed, thick, and stiff. Less use or less physical activity causes this capsule surrounding the shoulder joint to thicken and tighten.

With the progression of the inflammation, scars appear and cause thick tissue between the bones, tendons, and ligaments. The reduced rotational space as a result of this thick tissue (adhesions) makes it harder for the arm to move. This condition is termed “frozen shoulder.”

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Frozen Shoulder?

The most common signs and symptoms of a frozen shoulder include pain, stiffness, and restricted arm movement. These symptoms of a frozen shoulder often develop in three stages, as mentioned below:

Freezing Stage

This phase typically lasts 2 to 9 months. At this stage, the pain and stiffness in the shoulder appear, which is accompanied by a decreased range of movement. The pain gradually increases over time and is often sharper at night.

Frozen Stage

This frozen phase lasts 2 months to 6 months, but sometimes can even take up to a year. At this stage, the shoulder stiffness remains the same, but the pain might be relieved a bit. Sometimes the pain is acute but appears at night, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Simple day to day tasks and chores, however, may become extremely difficult to do.

Thawing Stage

This phase lasts about 6 months to 2 years. At this stage, the movement of the shoulder slowly improves as the capsule loosens.

The pain also decreases gradually during this recovery stage. When the shoulder returns to its normal movement and gains strength, it is called “full recovery.” However, in many cases, a full recovery might not occur without proper treatment.

What Is the Treatment for Frozen Shoulder?

Generally, to get relief from the acute pain, over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin might help. Otherwise, one should consult their doctor to prescribe stronger pain relief medication.

man looking at white pill on his hand while holding a glass of water

In order to improve the range of motion of the shoulder, you might also be required to go to a physiotherapist for stretching exercises to regain strength.

In cases with severe and prolonged symptoms, the doctor might recommend other treatments such as:

Joint Distension

In this treatment, your healthcare practitioner would inject sterile water into your shoulder capsule. This will help you stretch and move your shoulder more effortlessly.

Corticosteroid Injection

Corticosteroid would be injected into your shoulder in order to relieve pain and improve the movement in the shoulder.

Physical Therapy

As a part of this treatment, the physical therapist would teach you appropriate stretching (that stretches the joint capsule) and strengthening exercises. The therapist teaches you the right technique and how far to push so that you don’t go beyond your limit or strain your shoulder. Later on, after learning your limitations, you can practice the physical moves at home on your own.

Shoulder Manipulation

This treatment helps loosen shoulder tissues by means of a surgeon forcefully moving the shoulder under general anesthesia. Shoulder manipulation, however, is very rarely performed these days as it is replaced with arthroscopic surgery. The reason being, there was a high risk of complications, including fractures, with the forceful manipulation.

Surgery

Surgery is the rare and last option used for a frozen shoulder, especially when no other treatment has worked so far. In this case, your doctor would suggest you have arthroscopic surgery. This is done using pencil-sized tools that are inserted by the surgeon into your shoulder, making tiny cuts.

Do’s With Frozen Shoulders

Regularly Attend Physical Therapy

Following your stretching and strengthening exercise regime prescribed by your physical therapist is important. This will ensure your progress is on track and you’re able to improve your range of motion gradually and safely.

medical personnel touching a man's shoulder

Apply an Ice Pack to a Frozen Shoulder

Placing an ice pack over your frozen shoulder for about 10 minutes, twice or thrice a day, can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

Take Your Doctor’s Prescription Medication

It is essential that you follow your doctor’s advice, guidelines, and treatment plan to fully recover from your frozen shoulder. If they prescribe any anti-inflammatory or pain relief medication, then make sure to take them on time as prescribed.

Learn Everything You Can About Adhesive Capsulitis

The lack of information about your frozen shoulder condition might make the situation worse. Thus, find information and learn as much as you can about adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder). This will help you find answers to a lot of your questions, such as what stage of the syndrome you’re at, what caused it, and what to do about it.

Also, by knowing your options and treatments, you can steer clear of the feeling of discouragement and bafflement.

Speak With a Frozen Shoulder Specialist

It is most likely that you will find relief with physical therapy and other treatment options. However, if the conventional treatments turn out to be a letdown, then it’s time to speak with a frozen shoulder specialist.

Frozen shoulder clinics and their specialists are particularly skilled at treating conditions like this using exclusive techniques and procedures. Such non-invasive and non-surgical procedures can help you find success in the treatment of your tenacious frozen shoulder condition. 

Don’ts for Frozen Shoulders

Don’t Allow Shoulder Pain To Prevent You From Moving Your Arm

It is normal for the patients to limit arm movement as there is a persisting excruciating pain. However, no or very little mobility of the shoulder joint will only make the condition worse and recovery of the range of motion difficult in the long run. Therefore, it is important that you move your arm on a regular basis and don’t leave it completely immobilized.

In addition, using a brace for frozen shoulder is also not recommended as it limits the range of motion.

Don’t Engage in Painful Activities

Make sure to avoid any high-impact activities or sports that could produce a jolt or shock in the shoulder and upper arm. This will not only help you manage pain but also avoid any further staining, preventing the condition from worsening.

Avoid Sleeping on the Affected Side

Many times, people complain of searing pain during the night. To avoid having painful and sleepless nights, you need to avoid sleeping on the affected side. You can sleep on your back or choose the correct pillow for frozen shoulders to support the affected arm.

man in blue shirt sleeping on his side

You can also check sciatic nerve pain relief at night.

Who Suffers From Frozen Shoulder

People who suffer from frozen shoulder often fall into these groups:

  1. Age is a factor that plays an important role in developing frozen shoulder syndrome. People over the age of 40, especially women, are more likely to develop a frozen shoulder.
  2. People with restricted shoulder movement are somewhat at an increased risk of developing this condition. Reduced mobility or immobility of the shoulder involves issues such as a broken arm, stroke, rotator cuff injury, or recovery.
  3. People with certain conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, overactive thyroid, underactive thyroid, and Parkinson’s disease are also at high risk of developing frozen shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder Stretching Exercises

Frozen shoulder stretching exercises involve:

  • Pendulum stretch
  • Finger walk
  • Towel stretch
  • Cross-body reach
  • Armpit stretch

Causes of Frozen Shoulder

The specific cause of a frozen shoulder is still unknown. However, there are groups that are at high risk. Age is one common factor, as people between the ages of 40 and 60 are often observed to develop frozen shoulder. Women of the same age group are more likely to develop it than men.

People who are recovering from medical conditions like a mastectomy, stroke, or surgery that restrict arm movement are also at an increased risk.

Diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and thyroid patients are also at a comparatively high risk of having adhesive capsulitis. 

Frozen Shoulder Pain Relief

Generally, pain relief medicines such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Nasrosyn, Anaprox, Aleve), and aspirin are recommended to manage pain and inflammation. However, in some cases of severe pain, the doctor might prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medication.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Frozen Shoulder

What Is the Fastest Way To Get Rid of a Frozen Shoulder?

Unfortunately, there is no fast way to get rid of a frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is a condition that could last from 6 months up to 3 years.

man in pain holding his shoulder

More often than not, it improves in a year or year and a half with care and medical attention. Without treatment, the condition may improve gradually on its own, but there may not be full recovery. That being said, if you want to know how to treat frozen shoulder at home on your own, then there are a few things that you can do to help accelerate the journey to full recovery:

  • Pain Relief: For pain relief, do follow your doctor’s advice and take the prescribed medication.
  • Moving Your Arm: Movement is important, so you should move your arm in a comfortable range of motion. Neither stop moving your arm completely nor stretch it heavily.
  • Good Diet: A healthy diet for frozen shoulder filled with anti-inflammatory foods will help in fast recovery. The reason is that frozen shoulder is strongly linked with several low-level systemic inflammatory conditions.
  • Exercise: Follow a dedicated exercise routine arranged by your physical therapist.
  • Get Good Sleep: Given that frozen shoulder pain often interrupts night’s sleep, it becomes important to pay attention to that. Getting a good sleep will help you heal faster and reduce inflammation.

What Foods Help Heal Frozen Shoulder?

Anti-inflammatory foods may help heal a frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is a condition that is strongly linked with inflammation, so foods that are anti-inflammatory can produce benefits.

A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices (ginger, turmeric), and oily fish can support healing and recovery.

At the same time, reducing saturated trans fats and carbohydrates would be further valuable. Filling up on healthy, nutrition-rich foods and avoiding unhealthy foods will also help you reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, which are factors in developing a frozen shoulder.

Is It Ok to Massage a Frozen Shoulder?

Yes, it is OK to massage a frozen shoulder. Stretching and massaging are considered highly beneficial for treating frozen shoulder. Massage may help you relieve tightness and tension in the muscles, relieving pain and making you feel more relaxed. It can further help reduce inflammation and increase the flood flow in the affected area. This will support the restoration of mobility and improve function.

You can also consider using hemp oil for back pain.

Conclusion

In short, a frozen shoulder is a highly uncomfortable and painful condition to deal with. Reaching out for professional help is important for a full and quick recovery because a frozen shoulder could last up to three years.

Even when left untreated, the condition may get better within a year or two, but gaining the full range of motion might not be possible. Therefore, seeking professional treatment along with your home efforts makes complete sense.

As far as treating a frozen shoulder at home is concerned, you can only stay dedicated to exercising, consuming a healthy diet, and getting a good night’s sleep to fully support the treatment.

If you’re wondering how to sleep better with the pain and discomfort of a frozen shoulder? Then, our supplement might come in handy to help you get a good night’s sleep.

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