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Frozen shoulder

This section contains answers to frequently asked questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.

Can I use acupuncture for my frozen shoulder?

Answer

At the moment there isn't enough evidence to say whether acupuncture is beneficial for frozen shoulder or not.

Explanation

Acupuncture typically involves puncturing your skin with fine needles, at defined points, to relieve symptoms of certain conditions, such as pain.

There have only been a small number of studies investigating whether acupuncture is an effective way to treat frozen shoulder. In these studies, the improvements for pain and movement were the same for people who had acupuncture compared to those who received dummy treatment (placebo) for two to four weeks. The evidence isn't clear and therefore more studies are needed to test the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating frozen shoulder.

If you have frozen shoulder, it's important that you keep your shoulder joint moving. Stretching and gentle exercises can be helpful to restore range of movement. It may take several years for your symptoms to improve and you may need to visit a physiotherapist for treatment.

If you do decide to have acupuncture, check that your therapist belongs to a recognised professional body.

If I have frozen shoulder and my job involves heavy manual labour, do I need to take time off work?

Answer

If you have frozen shoulder, you don't usually need to take time off work. However, this can depend on the stage of your frozen shoulder, the nature of the work you do and whether you can do other activities that don't involve heavy, manual labour.

Explanation

In the early stage of frozen shoulder, you shouldn't do any activity or exercise that causes pain, such as overhead lifting, or any movement that causes your shoulder to stretch excessively. You should use your pain as a guide to which activities you can do. It's important that you keep your joint moving so try to continue using your shoulder for normal day-to-day activities if possible. Taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help during the early stage. Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

When your pain has improved, you can do gentle exercise and stretching to help improve the range of movement of your shoulder joint. Your GP may refer you to a physiotherapist who will show you some exercises. If your pain is severe or treatment doesn't help, your GP may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon (a doctor who specialises in bone surgery).

Speak to your GP if your shoulder pain is affecting your work.

What exercises can I do for frozen shoulder?

Answer

If you have frozen shoulder, you should keep your shoulder moving as much as possible without aggravating the pain too much. There are a number of exercises and stretches you can do to improve the stiffness and range of movement in your shoulder joint.

Explanation

Regular, gentle exercise and stretching is important for your shoulder joint if you have frozen shoulder. This helps to prevent your muscles wasting and can also help improve any stiffness. It's important that you don't do any movement that causes pain, such as lifting objects above your head or vigorous stretching.

The following exercises may help your frozen shoulder.

  • Stand in a doorway and hold on to the doorframe with your injured arm bent at 90 degrees. Rotate your body away from the doorway until you feel a gentle stretch.
  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and flat on the floor. Use your unaffected arm to raise your injured arm overhead until you feel a gentle stretch.
  • Gently pull your injured arm across your chest just below your chin as far as possible without causing pain.

Your GP can refer you to a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist can show you exercises and stretches that will help to restore the range of movement in your shoulder.



Produced by Dylan Merkett, Bupa Health Information Team, July 2012.

For our main content on this topic, see Information.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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