Home Treatment For Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is a painful disorder that results from inflammation and stiffness in the shoulder joint when bands of scar tissue called adhesions form on the connective tissue. In many patients, this condition restricts motion and causes chronic pain, and recovery often takes months. In severe cases, surgery is required. However, people afflicted with frozen shoulder can help alleviate the pain and improve their condition at home.

Managing the Pain

Doctors and physiotherapists recommend various anti-inflammatory medications and analgesics to reduce swelling and ease the pain caused by a pulled muscle. Ibuprofen acts as an anti-inflammatory, and aspirin and acetaminophen will help reduce the pain. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Additionally, icing the affected area will both reduce inflammation and numb the area, minimizing pain even further.

You can also get a home massage tool to help relax the muscles, which will prevent them from releasing chemicals that cause further inflammation of the joint. Using gentle pressure, gently rub the muscles of the shoulder to relieve pain and stimulate blood flow. Stop if you experience pain at any point.

Your doctor may also recommend using a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) device, which, by providing electrical stimulation to the shoulder, will activate opioid receptors in the nerves, reducing pain in that area.

Reducing the Inflammation

People afflicted with frozen shoulder should begin following the RICE method as soon as possible to reduce swelling and stiffness in the shoulder joint.

RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Following the steps in that order requires resting the affected area, and then periodically alternating Ice and Heat treatments—say, 20 minutes of ice followed by 20 minutes of a heated compress or heating pad. The ice will reduce swelling, while the heat will increase blood flow into the affected area and help remove toxins.

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In place of ice, you can also use a bag of frozen peas, which adds convenience, as the bag’s flexibility allows it to conform to the shoulder area, and you can reuse it many times by simply placing it back in the freezer to re-chill.

Compression will help minimize the swelling even further, and help speed the healing process. If you have to move around, compress the injured muscle with an ACE bandage. When resting, keep the injured area elevated so that the swelling drains from the muscle.

Doctors do not recommend applying ice or heat to bare skin; use a towel to separate the skin from the ice and heated compress.

Also, avoid the use of tobacco. Smoking decreases blood flow, which can hamper your body’s ability to heal its own tissues.

Stretching and Strengthening the Muscles

Treatment of frozen shoulder often requires physical therapy, and you can perform a number of stretching exercises at home to restore mobility to the affected joint.

Performing a few simple stretches (see References) will help work the shoulder through the entire range of motion. Keeping your shoulder flexible and attempting to move the joint can help speed recovery and prevent future occurrences of frozen shoulder. Also, keeping your shoulder and arm in motion will increase circulation, thereby decreasing swelling even further.

As the pain disappears and a full range of motion is restored, you can begin using resistance (for example, weights, cables or bands) to strengthen the muscles.