Adhesive capsulitis is commonly called frozen shoulder. This occurs when the joints in your shoulderare inflamed. The inflammation leads to scar tissue

This prevents you from being able to move your shoulder in all directions without pain. Your shoulder can become stiff, and it may be difficult for you to move it at all.

Symptoms of adhesive capsulitis

The primary symptom is difficulty moving your shoulder without pain and stiffness. You may feel this when you:

  • Reach up toward the sky with both arms.
  • Reach your arms out straight in front of you.
  • Raise your arms out to the sides of your body.
  • Pretend that you are trying to unzip the back of your dress or pull your wallet from the back pocket of your pants.

At first, your shoulder may ache and feel stiff. Then it may get very painful. This is called the painful stage. It may last about 3 to 8 months. The second stage is called the adhesive stage. You may not have as much pain. However, your shoulder keeps getting stiffer. This stage usually lasts about 4 to 12 months. By the time you reach the final stage, it becomes very hard to move your shoulder, even a little bit. This stage usually lasts about 1 to 3 months. However, it isn’t very painful. Eventually, the stiffness slowly goes away. You can move your shoulder again. You may not get the full movement of your shoulder back. As your shoulder movement increases, you may still have pain at times. However, you should be able to do more activities.

Stages 1 and 2

Exercises and manual therapy. Your physical therapist will help you maintain as much range of motion as possible and will help reduce your pain. Your therapist may use a combination of range-of-motion exercises and manual therapy (hands-on) techniques to maintain shoulder movement.

Modalities. Your physical therapist may use heat and ice treatments (modalities) to help relax the muscles prior to other forms of treatment.

Home-exercise program. Your physical therapist will give you a gentle home-exercise program designed to help reduce your loss of motion. Your therapist will warn you that being overly aggressive with stretching in this stage may make your shoulder pain worse.

Your physical therapist will match your treatment activities and intensity to your symptoms, and educate you on appropriate use of the affected arm. Your therapist will carefully monitor your progress to ensure a safe healing procedure is followed.

Pain medication. Sometimes, conservative care cannot reduce the pain of adhesive capsulitis. In that case, your physical therapist may refer you for an injection of a safe anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medication. Research has shown that although these injections don’t provide longer-term benefits for range of motion and don’t shorten the duration of the condition, they do offer short-term pain reduction.

Stage 3

The focus of treatment during phase 3 is on the return of motion. Treatment may include:

Stretching techniques. Your physical therapist may introduce more intense stretching techniques to encourage greater movement and flexibility.

Manual therapy. Your physical therapist may take your manual therapy to a higher level, encouraging the muscles and tissues to loosen up.

Strengthening exercises. You may begin strengthening exercises targeting the shoulder area as well as your core muscles. Your home-exercise program will change to include these exercises.

Stage 4

In the final stage, your physical therapist will focus on the return of “normal” shoulder body mechanics and your return to normal, everyday, pain-free activities. Your treatment may include:

Stretching techniques. The stretching techniques in this stage will be similar to previous ones you’ve learned, but will focus on the specific directions and positions that are limited for you.

Manual therapy. Your physical therapist may perform manual therapy techniques in very specific positions and ranges that are problematic for you. They will focus on eliminating the last of your limitations.

Strength training. Your physical therapist will prescribe specific strengthening exercises related to any weakness that you may have to help you perform your work or recreational tasks.

Return to work or sport. Your physical therapist will address movements and tasks that are required in your daily and recreational life.

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Town Physical Therapy Locations:

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