Adhesive Capsulitis, commonly known as Frozen Shoulder is a condition characterized by stiffening of the shoulder, limited mobility and sometimes excruciating pain. This condition causes tremendous discomfort and hinders our regular routine.
Causes of Frozen Shoulder
A wide variety of shoulder motions is possible due to the ball and socket arrangement in the joint called the ‘Glenohumeral joint’ that joins the upper arm bone (Humerus) to the shoulder blade (Scapula). Frozen shoulder is caused due to the inflammation of the shoulder joint capsule that encases the ligaments, muscles and bones of the ball and socket joint. This inflammatory process limits our physical activities by reducing the joint capsule’s ability to stretch. If not taken care of, it might lead to thickening of the connecting tissue, thereby prolonging the stiffness and further limiting mobility. Unfortunately, the exact causes of this condition are unknown. However, few of the possible risk factors have been listed below:
- Age: This condition is more common among people who are on the other side of 40. This is due to the degenerative changes in connective tissue components that happen with age.
- Injury: Injuries may force the shoulder to remain immobilized for a long time. Prolonged immobility of the shoulder joint can result in this condition as well.
- Diabetes: This is one of the major risk factor of frozen shoulder. According to a study, about 20% of all diabetic patients suffer from frozen shoulder due to irregular blood sugar levels.
- Metabolic Disorder: Endocrine disorders such as hyper or hypothyroidism, untreated or poorly managed circulatory conditions or tuberculosis can also increase the risks of frozen shoulder.
Physiotherapy is one of the best cures for frozen shoulder. The treatment consists of a few sets of simple stretching exercises that can easily be carried out at home. A prolonged case of frozen shoulder might require arthroscopic management. However, mostly, frozen shoulder can be cured with regular physiotherapy. Mentioned below are some of the simpler yet effective physiotherapy exercises one can try at home:
Shoulder abduction/flexion: Shoulder abduction is a physiotherapy technique that has been in practice since a long time. This stretching exercise helps restore the range of motion of the joints. An easy way to practice this stretching exercise involves the following steps:
Firstly, attach a pulley to the door or the wall. Fix the height so that you can fully stretch both of your arms. Stand with your back facing the door and grasp the two ends of the pulley with both your hands. Now start pulling one arm downwards and stretch the other arm upwards. Then pull the outstretched arm towards your body and the other arm upwards.
Repeat these steps for about 10 minutes.
Pendulum stretch: This is a simple stretching exercise that doesn’t require any external device. To start with, stand straight and relax your shoulders. Then slightly lean over so that the affected arm hangs down. Now, start revolving your arms in a circle of little small diameter in clockwise direction. Continue this for up to 10 revolutions and then do it anti clockwise. Once you start getting more comfortable, you can increase the diameter as well as hold light weights (1kg weights) while doing this exercise. 10 minutes of this exercise can be very helpful.
Towel Stretch: This is another stretching exercise that loosens you joints and increases the range of motion of your arm. Follow these steps: Take a three feet long towel. Hold one end of it behind your back and grab the opposite end with the other hand. Now pull your unaffected arm upwards to stretch the affected arm. Stretch your affected hand as much you can and hold the position for about 20 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds. Do this 10 to 20 times a day.
Arm Cycle: This is a very common exercise that is often practiced by athletes to improve their arm motion range before a match. It’s a simple yet extremely beneficial exercise. Follow these simple steps:
First of all, put your left hand on the left shoulder and try to make small circles in the air. Start off with small circles and gradually increase the diameter. Make 20 clockwise circles and then 20 anti-clockwise circles. Now repeat the entire set of activities with your right hand.
This exercise increases blood flow across the joints and tissue, thus increasing rate at which the healing happens.
Armpit Stretch: With the help of the unaffected arm, lift the bad arm onto a table or a shelf at about shoulder height. Now gently bend your knees, opening up the armpits. Slowly deepen you knee bends more and more, while stretching your arm as much as you can. Then go back to the original position. Do this exercise for about 10-20 times a day. This will better the range of motion for the affected arm.
Back Clasp: This is an exercise that improves the flexibility of shoulder muscles and ligaments of the joints. It is a relatively pain free exercise for someone suffering from frozen shoulder syndrome. It helps in restoring full range of motion. These are the steps to be followed for this exercise:
Stand with your legs wide apart. Use your hands and clasp them behind your back. Stabilize your arm and slowly raise the arms over your head. Stop your arms at the position of maximum resistance and hold the position for 30 seconds. Start from the first step again. As you continue practicing this exercise for a few days, you’ll notice increased range of motion. Practice this exercise for about 5 to 8 minutes a day.
Physiotherapy has often proved to be a boon for frozen shoulder. Your physiotherapist may require a comprehensive subjective history and thorough examination to reach an accurate diagnosis. Want to know more about physiotherapy for frozen shoulder? Download Portea’s Mobile App and chat with a doctor for free.