Physiotherapy for Cold Shoulder
Georgiy Sekretaryuk
February 26, 2018
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Physiotherapy for Cold Shoulder

Physiotherapy for Frozen and Cold Shoulder

No, we’re not here to give you advice on how to deal with getting the silent treatment from a coworker, friend, or loved one. Cold should (aka frozen shoulder) is a casual term for adhesive capsulitis, a condition in which the shoulder is stiff, painful, and has limited range of motion (ROM) in all directions. The condition is diagnosed by various physical characteristics, which can include a thickening of the synovial capsule, adhesions within the subacromial or subdeltoid bursa, adhesions to the biceps tendon, and/or eradication of the axillary fold secondary to adhesions. Symptoms often begin gradually, intensify over time and then (in most cases) resolve within one to three years. While this enigmatic ailment does have a habit of dissipating over time, living with it for months if not years is not a viable option for most. Who wants pain, stiffness, and limited ROM in a part of the body that is essential to everyday activity? Certainly not you, so let’s find out what you can do to give cold shoulder, the cold shoulder.

5 DIY Tips to Treating Frozen Shoulder to Reduce Pain, Stiffness and Regain Range of Motion

1. Dedicated Frozen Shoulder Stretching and Strengthening Exercises 

There are exercises that you can apply to your daily regime that may be effective in treating adhesive capsulitis. Before doing any, warm up the region by running warm water on a hand towel and applying it to your shoulder. If you have a heating pad, moisten it and do the same for about 10 to 15 minutes. When ready, perform the following stretching and strengthening exercises (endorsed by Harvard Medical):

  • Pendulum Stretch (once per day) – Place the hand which extends down from your “good” shoulder on a short table or bench. Stand and lean over slightly, allowing the arm of the affected shoulder to hang down. Rotate the arm in a small circle (approximately 12-inches in diameter) for about 10 revolutions in each direction.
  • Towel Stretch (frequently though the day) – Grasp one end of a 3-foot-long towel behind your back, just above your buttocks with the palm facing the wall behind you. Grab the opposite end with your other hand so that you’re holding the towel in a horizontal position. Raise the arm connected to your good shoulder towards your armpit, to pull the affected side upward and stretch it.
  • Finger Walk (frequently through the day) – Face a wall, and reach out (with affected shoulder/arm) and touch the wall with your fingers so that a perfect “V” is formed from your shoulder to finger tip. With your elbow slightly bent (just above waist level) slowly walk your fingers up the wall like a marching insect until you’ve raised your shoulder as far as it can go before pain and discomfort kicks in, at which point you will slowly lower the arm and repeat.
  • Cross Body Reach (frequently through the day) – This is the old school stretch you’ve done since P.E. class and what you see people do in the gym on any given day. Simply sit or stand, and use the good arm from the good shoulder to lift your affected shoulder/arm at the elbow, and bring it up and across your body, applying gentle pressure to stretch for about 15 seconds.
  • Armpit Stretch (frequently though the day) – Place the arm of your affected shoulder (with the assistance of your good side, if need be) onto a shelf, about chest high. Keep good form, and slowly bend your knees to the point that you feel a gentle stretching in the armpit, and then straighten, and repeat with care.
  • Outward Rotation (once per day) – You’ll need to use a rubber exercise band for this one. If you don’t have one, buy one, as it’s an essential tool for anyone who experiences and/or lives with shoulder pain. Hold the band between your hands with your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and close to your sides. Rotate the lower part of the arm connected to your affected shoulder outward two or three inches and hold for 5-seconds, for 15 repetitions.
  • Inward Rotation (frequently through the day) – You get to use your rubber exercise band again for this one. See, it’s already paying for itself! For this exercise, stand next to a closed door, and hook one end of the band around the doorknob. Hold the other end with the hand of the affected shoulder/arm and hold your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Pull the band toward your body two or three inches and hold for 5-seconds, for 15 repetitions.

Harvard Medical has provided a photo of each exercise here, for your reference.

2. Proper Warm-Up and Cool-Down After Strenuous Activity

Before you participate in a sport or any form of physical activity (manual labor included) you must warm-up (5-10 minutes) and cool down (5-10 minutes), paying close attention to your shoulders. The same warm-up/cool-down process for avoiding sports injuries applies, which can be referenced here.

3. Daily Ice Pack

Place an ice pack, over a light towel, on your affected shoulder for 15 minutes. Spread the process evenly throughout the day, when viable.  This can help alleviate pain (and swelling, where applicable).

4. OTC Pain Medication?

Some of you prefer to keep away from any form of medication, but if frozen shoulder becomes so debilitating that you cannot perform essential daily activities, you may consider taking ibuprofen. Consult with your physician to make sure ibuprofen (or other OTC pain medication) can be taken given your current health, prescriptions, allergies, and sensitivities.

5. Consult With a Physiotherapy Clinic Near You

The last yet most effective way for you to alleviate frozen shoulder, is to see a reputable physiotherapist. For starters, a physiotherapist will assess your medical history and provide a physical examination to confirm whether or not you are actually experiencing adhesive capsulitis, or another ailment. From there, a physiotherapist will be able to create a custom plan for treatment and therapy that will set you on the path to quicker recovery from frozen shoulder. This may include modalities, manual therapies, laser therapy, acupuncture/IMS, and/or more. It all begins with that first consultation, and that starts with your decision to contact a physiotherapy clinic near you. If you reside in Burnaby, Coquitlam, or anywhere in Greater Vancouver, your solution to cold shoulder awaits, right here.





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