Rehabilitation for Adhesive Capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis, commonly referred to as frozen shoulder, is a common condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder. Symptoms of frozen shoulder tend to worsen over time, however, even without treatment, symptoms may resolve on their own in about two years time. This period is referred to as the thawing phase, during which pain and stiffness of the shoulder subside and range of motion is slowly restored. The main form of treatment for frozen shoulder is pain medication and physical therapy. Surgery is rarely required.

Physical therapy is an important form of treatment for frozen shoulder. The goal of physical therapy treatment is to reduce pain, decrease inflammation and restore range of motion. Treatment may initially include electrical stimulation, and cold treatments. A physical therapist will work with each patient to create an exercise regimen that will address the tightening of the capsular tissue. Therapy includes stretching exercises of the shoulder that help to prevent pain that may cause muscles around the shoulder to tighten even more. Heat may be applied prior to the session to help loosen the shoulder up before the stretching exercises. In addition, range of motion exercises and joint mobilization techniques are used to keep the joint gliding smoothly and to prevent scar tissue from forming.

Patients may also be prescribed physical therapy exercises to perform at home. In order to achieve effective results, patients must be committed to their physical therapy regimen. Individuals with frozen shoulder may require 3 to 4 months of physical therapy treatment before regaining full function and motion of the shoulder.

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