Frozen shoulder is a medical condition that can last for several months and cause shoulder pain and loss of range of motion. The condition comes on gradually, so you may not seek help until you've put up with the pain for months and now can barely raise your arm. Physical therapy is an important part of treating frozen shoulder. Here's a look at why movement is important and some treatments a physical therapist may provide.
Moving Your Shoulder Reduces Stiffness
If you're wearing a sling or not using your arm because of pain, you might be doing more harm than good. A sling should only be worn if your doctor prescribes it. Otherwise, moving your arm is usually encouraged so your shoulder doesn't develop more scar tissue, which further limits movement. Also, movement keeps the shoulder capsule from becoming tight and stiff, which can make your condition worse. Even if you can't lift your arm on your own, having someone else move your arm or using techniques for passive movement that your physical therapist teaches you can help your condition.
Exercising And Stretching Improves Movement And Pain
Seeing a physical therapist is important for learning the right types of exercises you need to do for your shoulder. Frozen shoulder goes through a series of phases, and different exercises and stretches are best at different phases of the condition. Your shoulder may be so stiff that you need to start physical therapy with the therapist moving your shoulder through range of motion exercises. As your shoulder capsule loosens, you'll progress to doing more aggressive stretches and movements on your own. You might start a therapy session with heat treatments to loosen your shoulder, increase circulation, and help with pain.
Once your shoulder has loosened up and is starting to thaw out, your therapist may start on strengthening exercises. Because of limited mobility for months, your shoulder and arm muscles will be in a weakened condition. You may need to use a resistance band or do isometric exercises that target the weak muscles so your shoulder and arm return to a normal state and are not at risk of injury due to weakness.
While it may take many months for your frozen shoulder symptoms to go away completely, you won't have to take physical therapy the entire time. Instead, you'll learn stretches and exercises to do at home on your own, so keeping up with your home treatments will be an important aspect of a full and proper recovery.