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Gillian asked...

What exercises will help my frozen shoulder?

Tags: Exercise

I had an operation on my left shoulder three years ago as I was suffering from a "frozen shoulder". I am now suffering from a similar pain in my right upper arm. Could you please recommend an exercise plan to help this as I cannot remember the exercises my physio gave me before.

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The answer

A frozen shoulder (otherwise called adhesive capsulitis) is a progressive stiffening of the shoulder with gradually increasing pain without any history of injury. It tends to occur more often in those over the age of 50 years and is more common amongst diabetics. The exact cause is unknown but it is thought that it may occur because of a disruption of the normal blood supply to fibrous capsule that binds the shoulder joint together.

The condition usually gets worse over about 6 months, stays about the same for another 6 months then finally gets better on its own over a further 6 months.  Physiotherapy or injection therapy can sometimes be helpful but not curative in the very early stages of the condition (i.e. first 6 weeks). Once the early phase has passed, the condition just seems to run its own course. To manage the pain it is important to continue to try to mobilise the shoulder throughout the course of this condition.

Once a frozen shoulder is fully set in its frozen phase there is not much that can be done to speed up its resolution but some patients may wish to consider an orthopaedic procedure called 'manipulation under anaesthetic'.  During this procedure an orthopaedic shoulder specialist will move the shoulder into a variety of positions while the patient in anaesthetised so as to break down the adhesions which have formed, although this is normally reserved for those who have more severe or prolonged symptoms.

Answered by Dr A Wright


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