The top 5 stretches for a frozen shoulder

Chiropractic Doctor Shawnee, KS

For individuals who suffer from adhesive capsulitis, also known as a frozen shoulder, simple tasks such as putting a coat on, or reaching for something on the top shelf can result in excruciating pain. Over time, a frozen shoulder can be debilitating not only due to the pain but the decreased range of motion as well. Women have a higher risk of developing a frozen shoulder than men, though all adults older than the age of 40 are more prone to developing this condition. Most experts believe that some type of inflammatory process may be the culprit behind this condition. However, there may be several causes of a frozen shoulder.

Causes of a frozen shoulder

According to Harvard Medical School, the development of a frozen shoulder occurs in stages, typically beginning with an injury or some type of soft tissue inflammation of the shoulder. Unfortunately, the cause of a frozen shoulder is usually the start of a vicious cycle.

A shoulder injury causes inflammation and pain, which then limits shoulder movement, and leads to decreased range of motion. When the shoulder joint does not move, the capsule around the joint thickens and contracts, resulting in decreased elasticity and flexibility. In severe cases, scar tissue forms between the joint capsule and the head of the upper arm bone. With a frozen shoulder, the less the shoulder is moved to avoid pain, the more likely the capsule will stiffen and contract.

The good news is that in most cases, a frozen shoulder can be reversed with the appropriate therapy and care.

Top exercises for a frozen shoulder

The cornerstone of treatment for a frozen shoulder is increasing the range of motion through physical therapy as well as exercises that stretch the joint capsule.

Here are the top 5 stretches for a frozen shoulder:

  • Pendulum stretch: Stand and lean over slightly with your shoulders relaxed. Allow the affected arm to hang down. Swing the arm in slow small circles (about a foot in diameter). Perform 10 circles in each direction, once a day.

  • Towel stretch: Take a three-foot-long towel and hold one end with your hand behind your back and grab the opposite side of the towel with the other hand. Hold the towel in a horizontal position, and slowly pull the affected arm upward until a stretch is felt. Do this stretch 10-20 times a day.

  • Finger walk: Face a wall, reach out the affected arm until fingertips are touching the wall and there is a slight bend in the elbow. With your fingertips touching the wall, start at waist level and slowly walk your fingers up the wall (like a spider) until you’ve raised your arm as high as you comfortably can. Slowly lower the arm, and repeat. Note: Your fingers should be doing the work, not your shoulder muscles.

  • Cross-body stretch: While sitting or standing, use your good arm to lift the affected arm up and cross your body at the elbow. Apply mild pressure to stretch the shoulder. Hold stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

  • Armpit stretch: Lift the affected arm about breast high onto a shelf or table. Gently bend your knees to deepen the stretch and open up the armpit. Straighten legs, and repeat 10 to 20 times per day. With each bend, the stretch should deepen.

If you are suffering from a frozen shoulder, stretching is a great tool to help loosen the shoulder joint and increase the range of motion. The chiropractic doctor Shawnee KS offers at LifeWorks knows the proper therapy and care to help heal your frozen shoulder.