If you’ve ever experienced frozen shoulder, you know that it can be quite painful. Thankfully, there are frozen shoulder exercises that can help reduce the pain and increase mobility over time. Let’s review the basics of this condition and five manageable frozen shoulder exercises that you can do at home.
What Is Frozen Shoulder?
Also known as adhesive capsulitis (AC), frozen shoulder involves a problem with the shoulder joint. The main symptoms with frozen shoulder are pain and stiffness. This is because the connective tissue around the shoulder joint becomes too tight and thick. Thus, movement is limited and even painful.
Often, people with frozen shoulder develop this condition after a surgery or injury to the arm, but it can happen to anyone as a result of underlying conditions, such as one’s work environment, or poor posture.
When the shoulder is kept in one position for prolonged periods of time, it can lead to these challenges because the connective tissue starts to tighten and thicken around the shoulder joint. Interestingly, people who have diabetes, thyroid diseases, Parkinson’s disease, or issues with the heart are also at an increased risk of developing frozen shoulder.
Typically, frozen shoulder occurs in three stages:
- Freezing—During this stage, people who are developing frozen shoulder begin to have pain whenever they move their shoulder. In addition to this, their shoulder’s range of motion starts to drastically decrease, meaning that they aren’t able to rotate or move their arm from the shoulder as easily or painlessly as they could before.
- Frozen—As the name suggests, this part in the process is often the most challenging, as it indicates the times in which the shoulder is most frozen or stuck in place. If those affected by this do not get the proper treatment or keep up with their frozen shoulder exercises, this stage could very well last up to a year or longer.
- Thawing—Finally, when the shoulder begins to improve, it enters the thawing stage. This is when range of motion begins to increase, pain begins to lessen, and normal function starts to return. Frozen shoulder exercises can help tremendously to get to and through this stage.
5 Frozen Shoulder Exercises To Try at Home
Before trying any frozen shoulder exercises, be sure to talk with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure these movements will assist in your recovery rather than prolong it. Additionally, experts recommend applying heat to the area before beginning any stretches or exercises. If the shoulder pain becomes worse at any point, gently bring yourself to a neutral position and get in touch with a health care expert before continuing on.
1. Wall finger walk
The finger walk exercise asks participants to stand or sit facing a wall. You will remain less than an arm’s length away as you reach out to place your fingers on the wall at about waist-level. For this position, you will keep your elbow bent. From here, you will use two fingers, usually the index and middle, to “walk” your way up the wall.
What’s important about this exercise is that you are allowing your fingers to do the heavy lifting. They will lead your arm up the wall until you reach a point of resistance but not pain. You can hold this stretch for a moment and then release.
2. Cross body stretch
Another helpful frozen shoulder exercise is the cross body stretch. This can be done in either a seated or standing position. Holding onto the elbow of the affected arm with your good hand, you will lift the hurt arm up and across the body. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and then gently release. Repeat this up to 20 times a day. Once you get the hang of it, you can deepen the stretch by putting light pressure on the arm and bringing it closer to the torso.
3. Towel stretch
With this frozen shoulder exercise, you will need a rolled up towel. You will hold this towel at each end with both of your hands. The towel will go behind your back at a horizontal angle. You will use your non-affected arm to gently pull on the towel, which will lift the other arm upward. This will give your frozen shoulder a good stretch.
4. Pendulum rotations
The key to this exercise, as with many shoulder exercises, is to take a deep breath in and on the exhale, relax your shoulders as much as you can. Then, in a standing position, you will dangle the affected arm. This is often easiest to do if you are able to stand with your feet staggered as though you are taking a step.
You can then brace yourself with the arm that hasn’t been impacted on a counter, table, or other surface that is level with your torso. This way, your affected arm has more space to hang. You will then mimic the motion of a pendulum by allowing your hanging arm to gently swing in a small circle clockwise and then counterclockwise.
As your frozen shoulder begins to thaw, you will be able to make slightly bigger circles. Further on in your recovery process, you may even be able to hold onto a light weight with the arm that is making the circles in order to increase the stretch.
5. Outward and inward rotations
Lastly, two of the best frozen shoulder exercises go hand-in-hand: outward and inward rotations. It’s most helpful to have an exercise band to use for this portion, as it will offer gentle resistance.
To begin an outward or external rotation, you will hold the exercise band with two hands. Your elbows should be at 90-degree angles by your sides. Your good arm will hold steady as your affected arm begins to pull outward a few inches. You can hold this stretch for 5 or so seconds and then release.
Similarly, you will hold your affected arm at a 90-degree angle to do the inward rotation. This time, the other side of the exercise band can go around something that will not move, such as a doorknob on a closed door. You will pull your arm in toward your body from that 90-degree angle to get a stretch.
With these two frozen shoulder exercises, you will be able to increase mobility in your shoulder as it practices rotating outward and inward. Furthermore, the resistance band will help you to regain some strength in your shoulder as well.
The Bottom Line
All of these exercises will help to get you closer to thawing out that frozen shoulder and improving your quality of life. Be sure to share your thoughts on the types of frozen shoulder exercises that have helped you and any other tips and tricks that keep the pain away.
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