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Taipei City Hospital


Correct Rehabilitation for Frozen Shoulders

     Fu Ming-yi, attending physician of the Rehabilitation Department in the Yangming Branch of Taipei City Hospital, says that there are a variety of reasons for shoulder pain, and one of the most annoying reasons is the adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder, the so-called “frozen shoulder”. Its common symptoms include the inability to raise arms or the accompaniment of pain when moving the upper arm, which will obviously affect the daily actions in life, such as combing hair and dressing. In serious cases, the patients cannot turn during sleep, causing local body pressure and influencing the sleeping quality. Frozen shoulder tends to occur in women in their 40s to 60s. Diabetic patients may also suffer from it in both shoulders regardless of their handedness.

     Moderate stretching is critical in treatment. Hot compress is recommended before stretching. Do the stretching exercise slowly and fully according to the level of personal endurance, and at least 10 seconds for each stretch. Do not pull the shoulder joint forcefully, as it may result in serious injury. Reduce the stretching intensity if pain is experienced the next day. The mobility of the shoulder joint will not recover immediately, and it requires persistent treatment. The treatment effect will be felt after a few weeks. Please seek help from a physician in case of serious pain, as drug and rehabilitation therapy will alleviate the inflammations; this will also prevent the suspension of the stretching (rehabilitation) course due to unbearable pain.

     For daily maintenance: avoid lifting heavy objects; do moderate shoulder exercise; and correct improper postures, such as sudden shoulder lifting and other movements which may easily injure the shoulder. Dr. Fu Ming-yi provided the following rehabilitation exercises for frozen shoulder which can be practiced frequently:

1. Stretching of the passive range of motion (PROM)
A. Stretch the healthy side inwards, upwards and downwards to drive the affected side; a towel can also be used to assist the pulling.
B. Hold the door frame with the hand on the affected side, turn the body towards the healthy side and then release the hand slowly after counting to ten. The hand can move slowly in height from low to high.

2. Pendulum exercise
Bend the upper body forward, with the arm at the affected side sagging naturally, move the upper body forwards, backwards, leftwards and rightwards to make the arm swing or make circles clockwise and anticlockwise to gradually increase the swing amplitude.

3. Finger crawling exercise
Stand facing a wall or sidewise to a wall, extend the shoulder at the affected side forward, hold the wall with fingers to make them crawl upwards slowly, and then straighten the arm gradually until the arm is uptight and cannot stretch anymore. Hold the posture for 10 seconds.