What is Frozen Shoulder and How Can Exercise Help?

The shoulder is comprised of the glenohumeral joint and acromioclavicular joint which are formed by the head of the humerus (upper arm), scapular (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). Both joints work together to allow a full range of motion of the shoulder. The connective tissues that surround the shoulder are needed to stabilise, reinforce, prevent dislocations and allow safe movement along all planes of motion. Adhesive Capsulitis, also known as primary frozen shoulder, is a condition of unknown cause whereby the tissues connecting the head of the humerus to the scapula become inflamed and stiff, causing pain and restricted range of motion. Secondary frozen shoulder has the same impacts as primary frozen shoulder, however, its onset occurs due to other factors such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hyper/hypothyroidism, rotator cuff injury and prior surgeries in the shoulder region. This condition is characterised by three stages; pain, stiffness and thawing. If left untreated frozen shoulder can take more than three years to resolve itself. However, with conservative treatment patients often report outcomes of relieved signs and symptoms after 6 weeks.

One of the most successful form of conservative treatment is to partake in a structured exercise rehabilitation program prescribed by an Exercise Physiologist. An Exercise Physiologist will address the issue with a holistic approach, analysing your body as a whole, rather than just focusing on the shoulder. This is important as it leads to long term results rather than just temporary relief. Every part of our body is linked, for example, a stiffness or pain at the shoulder can track down to poor elbow and hand mobilisation, causing poor arm biomechanics and eventually stiffness and weakness in the whole arm. This can eventually result in reduced functionality and subsequent injuries. Therefore, if we alleviate the stiffness and pain at the shoulder, we can encourage the client to correctly mobilise the rest of their arm.

It is best to keep in mind that everyone is different and it is crucial to undergo an individual assessment to allow for prescription of a specific exercise rehabilitation programme for the best result. If you are suffering from shoulder pain, book in an initial assessment with an Absolute Balance Exercise Physiologist at info@absolutebalance.com.au and find out how exercise can help you.


Nicole Barber (AES, ESSAM)

Celik, D. (2010). Comparison of the outcomes of two different exercise programs on frozen shoulder. Turkish association of orthopaedics and traumatology, 44(4), 285-292. DOI: 10.3944/AOTT.2010.2367

Jain, T.K., & Sharma, N.K. (2014). The Effectiveness of Physiotherapeutic Interventions in Treatment of Frozen Shoulder/Adhesive Capsulitis: A Systematic Review. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 27(3), 247-273.

Taylor, N. (2014). Exercise Classes Supervised by A Physiotherapist May Be Better at Restoring Function After Frozen             Shoulder Than Individual Physiotherapy. Journal of Physiotherapy, 60(4), 236