What is Frozen Shoulder? And How Can Stretching Help?

by | Sep 5, 2023 | General Stretching

BY ANTHONY LETT

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It typically develops gradually and progresses through three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing.

3 Stages and Time Frames

During the freezing stage, shoulder movement becomes limited and painful. It usually lasts around 2-9 months.

In the frozen stage, the pain may decrease, but the shoulder remains stiff and mobility is significantly restricted. This stage can last anywhere from 4-12 months.

Finally, during the thawing stage, the range of motion gradually improves, and the pain subsides. It can take several months to a year or more to complete this phase.

The usual time frame for frozen shoulder can vary from person to person. However, the condition generally progresses through three phases above and can take anywhere from several months to a couple of years to resolve completely.

Causes

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve inflammation and thickening of the shoulder joint capsule, which surrounds and supports the shoulder joint. This can lead to the formation of adhesions and scar tissue, restricting joint movement.

Anatomy for Geeks!

The capsule has several layers. The fibrous layer is composed of dense connective tissue. Cleverly, the fibres are orientated in a spiral pattern so that when the arm is elevated they tighten around the joint to maximize stability.

The capsule provides passive stability (as opposed to active stability that is provided by muscles) by limiting joint movement. The capsule is rich in proprioceptive fibers also, which relay information back to the CNS about the position of the joint in space and its relative stability and safety.

Image A shows the Fibrous layer of the Articular capsule of the shoulder

Image B shows a cross section of the right shoulder. The capsule is found under layers of muscle, ligaments, tendons and muscle.

Stretching exercises

Stretching exercises play a crucial role in the management and treatment of frozen shoulder. Stretching helps to maintain and improve the range of motion in the affected shoulder. When performed correctly and consistently, stretching exercises can help break up adhesions, decrease stiffness, and increase flexibility.

In the StretchFit body of work, there is an entire series of stretches that are beneficial for frozen shoulder. These include what we call the intrinsic shoulder muscle group. Below are a few stretches that you can try. They have been selected from the 3 groups of muscles around the shoulder. Practicing them will ensure that the shoulder is gently stretched in different positions to place mild stresses on different parts of the capsule.

1. The biceps stretch:

2. The Cross Body stretch (Deltoid Stretch)

3. The Behind the Body (Supraspinatus) Stretch

It’s important to remember that stretching should be done gently and without causing excessive pain. It’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional who you can work alongside. They may be able to provide guidance on the appropriate exercises and intensity based on the specific condition and stage of frozen shoulder.

StretchFit Studio offers specialized stretching services for painful conditions such as Frozen Shoulder.

To find a studio near you check out their website

www.stretchfit.studio