Frozen Shoulder Exercises – Freezing Stage

Frozen shoulder , also known as Adhesive Capsulitis is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. It can make it difficult to move your arm and perform everyday activities.

Frozen shoulder occurs when the connective tissue around the shoulder joint becomes stiff and inflamed. This can make it difficult to move your arm. Adhesive capsulitis often develops slowly, and symptoms can worsen over time.

The characteristic feature of frozen shoulder is complete loss of External Rotation.

The condition usually goes away on its own, but there are exercises you can do to help relieve the pain and stiffness. These frozen shoulder exercises are separated into exercises you can do during Freezing, Frozen and Thawing stages.

Frozen shoulder exercises: Freezing Stage

The freezing stage is when you first start to experience pain and stiffness in your shoulder. These exercises can help relieve the pain and stiffness during this stage. Treatment during the freezing stage should be to minimise pain so that you can continue with daily activities with as little discomfort as possible.

During periods with high pain, it is important not to do do any strenuous PT as this can increase inflammation and pain.

The  goal of treatment during the freezing stage of frozen shoulder is to reduce pain, and ease normal functions of daily living, including getting better sleep.

Assisted Shoulder Extension with Stick

The assisted shoulder extension with stick can help improve range of motion for extension, which is moving your arm backwards. The exercise is gentle and helps to stretch the muscles and ligaments around the joint.

You can notice improvement in extension in improvement in activities such as reaching into your back pocket.

The normal range of motion for extension of the shoulder is between 45º-60º.


Equipment required: a stick

Steps to follow:

  1. Stand facing a wall and place your hand on the wall.
  2. Slowly crawl your hand up the wall as high as possible.
  3. Lower your arm slowly and repeat.

Assisted Shoulder Flexion with a Stick

This exercise helps to improve range of motion for flexion, which is moving your arm forwards. The exercise is gentle and helps to stretch the muscles and ligaments around the joint, controlled by your healthy arm. The normal range of motion for flexion is 157° -162°.

Equipment required: Mat and a Stick

Steps to follow:

  1.  Lie on your back with knees bent.
  2. Hold stick slightly further than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Place the stick on your legs and then with the help of your good arm bring the stick as far as possible over your head.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds then return arms back to knees.


Passive Shoulder External Rotation

External rotation of the shoulder is a movement that rotates the arm outwards away from the body. External rotation is one of the first movements affected by frozen shoulder and the last to return.

Steps to follow:

  1. Stand facing the door.
  2. Then place the affected arm along the edge of the door, keeping the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Place your foot forwards (same side as the affected arm).
  3. Gently rotate the upper torso away from the door until a stretch is felt in the shoulder.


Shoulder Pendulum

Shoulder pendulum exercises are beneficial in the frozen stage of frozen shoulder. They are also gentle and easy to do, making shoulder pendulum swings a good option for those who are experiencing pain and stiffness.

Equipment required: Table or Chair

Steps to follow:

  1. Stand with one arm on a table.
  2. Body weight shifts between the feet to create a forward and backward swinging motion of the arm.
  3. Gently swing the arm back and forward, then end by slowly making a circular motion.