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Pain In Your Shoulder? How A Physical Therapist Can Help Frozen Shoulder Issues

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If you've recently injured your shoulder or arm, you could've developed adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is a condition where your shoulder joint becomes limited in its movement. Ideally, the shoulder joint should move smoothly as a ball-and-socket joint; if you have frozen shoulder, however, then you cannot move this joint smoothly because of thick, inflamed connective tissue. Take a look at how to treat this issue and why a physical therapist is vital for your recovery.

How Can You Correct the Problem?

You'll want to visit a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. People with very mild cases of frozen shoulder may see this issue resolve on its own if they rest the joint. If you have a mild case of frozen shoulder but aren't seeing improvement, your doctor may recommend certain stretches and/or steroid injections to decrease pain and inflammation.

If you have a more serious case of frozen shoulder, your doctor might recommend manipulation under anesthesia (MUA). Because frozen shoulder makes it painful for you to properly stretch, MUA might help because your doctor can stretch the area and break up scar tissue while you are not awake to feel it. Another treatment that could help is joint distension. During that treatment, your doctor can inject sterile water into the joint capsule, which will expand any restrictive tissues and pull fascia adhesions away so the shoulder can move more easily.

The last option is shoulder surgery, where your doctor will excise any scar tissue in the joint. This option is rare and usually left for worst-case scenarios.

No matter which treatment route you follow, it's important to work with a physical therapist during post-op care.

Why Is Physical Therapy Important After Frozen Shoulder Treatment?

After your frozen shoulder treatments, it may be difficult to get your full range of motion back without help. A physical therapist can teach you how to properly do stretches—like cross-body reaches, towel stretches, and pendulum stretches—so that you can do them correctly and safely in-office or at home. Sometimes lifting your arm to stretch can be painful to do on your own, so a physical therapist can be beneficial since they can stretch your arm and shoulder for you and support the weight of the extremity.

Ironically, you may develop new scar tissue as you heal after a shoulder surgery. Seeing a physical therapist is important since they can massage the area and make sure that new scar formation doesn't undo the effects of your surgery. Some physical therapists may use therapeutic ultrasound devices during the massages. These ultrasound devices are different than imaging devices. A therapeutic ultrasound machine sends sound waves into soft tissue to increase heat in the area. This heat improves blood circulation and relaxes muscles, which should improve your recovery times.

Reach out to a physical therapist in your area for more information on frozen shoulder treatment and recovery.