Now that I am 50, I am starting to suffer from conditions that I never would have imagined in my youth.
In the last couple of years, I found myself gradually unable to fully move my left shoulder. It was stiff and painful. I thought it may have been arthritis, but it turned out that I had developed frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis. I wondered what caused this and how to treat it, so I did some research on the causes, symptoms, and treatment which I will explain below – especially some great Shoulder Pain stretching exercises that really helped me to regain normal use of my shoulder again.
Frozen shoulder generally develops over a rather long period of time. The time period in which it gradually develops can be divided into 3 stages:
Freezing or Painful Stage – where the shoulder and surrounding area experience pain and limited range of motion.
Frozen Stage – where should blade pain begins to dissipate, but the area stiffens and movement becomes increasingly difficult.
Thawing Stage – where movement becomes easier but in many cases pain increases especially at night.
I found that frozen shoulder occurs most often in people between the ages of 40 and 70 years of age – especially postmenopausal women, like myself. It can result from scar tissue after surgery or from lack of use of the joint due to pain or shoulder injuries - such as shoulder tendonitis causing connective tissue in the area to become inflamed, thicken and tighten, or shoulder impingement of the tendons caused by lifting, swimming, tennis or other sports involving overhead reach. It can also result from chronic illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, thyroid conditions, Parkinson’s disease or following a stroke. It is diagnosed by a physical exam and possibly an x-ray to make sure that it is not the result of a broken bone or arthritis.
nitially, healthcare professionals will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and recommend applying heat to the affected shoulder before doing stretching exercises. Heat is often alternated with ice to reduce swelling, in addition to numbing corticosteroid injections to reduce pain. Physical therapy is recommended and in most cases helps to regain motion, but this may take up to a year for full range of motion. If these treatments are unsuccessful, surgery can be performed to loosen the tissues that are tight or stiff from scar tissue. Also, the arm can be manipulated by a physician while the patient is under anesthesia to try to loosen and stretch affected tissues.
There are a number of stretching exercises which can help to improve and in some cases prevent frozen shoulder. Following are a few of my favorites:
Shoulder Flexion and Extension
Using a wand or alternatively, a rubber exercise band, gently flex the arm and shoulder muscles by raising the wand or band over the head and behind the back.
Shoulder External Rotation
Hold the wand or exercise band with your elbows by your side – extended at a 90-degree angle, rotating the affected arm 2 to 3 inches away from the body and hold for 5 seconds. Do this once a day for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Shoulder Internal Rotation
Hold the wand or exercise band with hand belonging to the affected arm. Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle and pull the wand or band toward the body, holding it for 5 seconds. Do this once a day for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Grasp the bar or band in front of your chest, stretching the affected arm at a 90-degree angle for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Scapular Range of Motion
Gently flex shoulders back and forth for 10 to 15 repetions.
Stretching your pectoral muscles found on the outer side of your upper chest is good for posture and helps reduce soreness.
Stretch the bicep of the affected arm at a 90-degree angle once a day for 10 to 15 repetions.
For additional Shoulder Pain Exercises, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ-hm8bzOsk
If you are experiencing the Shoulder Pain symptoms mentioned consult a physician as soon as possible. Early intervention will prevent your Shoulder Pain worsening of the condition. If you suffer from a chronic illness or disease, work with your doctor to properly manage it to reduce the risk of frozen shoulder. In case of surgery or injury, stretching exercises may reduce or prevent symptoms. Consult your doctor and/or a physical therapist to determine the best treatment for your circumstances. The sooner you seek treatment, the less likely you will suffer a year or more like I did. It was not pleasant, so please take my advice and learn from my experience.