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Fixing a Frozen Shoulder: 5 Exercises Students in Physiotherapy Schools Should Know

May 18, 2016

Sore after hard workout at fitness

Chances are you’ll encounter a patient that is experiencing frozen shoulder during your time as a physiotherapist. Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, has a disabling quality that can last for upwards of a year and can stop people from going to work or doing daily tasks that require shoulder movement. The cause of this condition is not entirely known, but it involves the build up of scar tissue in the shoulder joint, which ultimately limits movement. Luckily, physiotherapists know that relief can be only a few stretches away.

Read on to discover what stretches are recommended for frozen shoulder by physiotherapists.

1. Physiotherapy School Students Should Know the Pendulum Stretch

If you’re on your way to receiving your physiotherapist assistant diploma, you’ll probably encounter the ins and outs of the pendulum stretch. This stretch is done by letting the affected arm ‘hang’ while leaning over slightly and allowing it to softly swing in a small circle. Tell the patient to picture their arm like a spoon that is lightly stirring pasta in a small pot. Patients should perform 10 revolutions both clockwise and vice versa once per day until improvement is seen.

2. Physiotherapists Should Keep a Towel Handy for the Towel Stretch

During your physiotherapist assistant training you’ll learn that towels aren’t just used to warm up patients, they can be used to stretch and warm up muscles! Grab a regular bath towel and hold it behind your back, with both hands grabbing opposite ends. Using your unaffected arm, gently pull the affected arm upwards for a light stretch. Try to do these pulls 10 to 20 times per day. To help patients incorporate this stretch into their daily routine, why not encourage them to try getting in the habit of doing the towel stretch when they get out of the shower?

3. Finger Walk to Shoulder Freedom! What Physiotherapist Assistant Training Students Know

Want patients to ‘walk away’ from frozen shoulder? Let them try the finger walk stretch. Instruct your patient to stand in front of a wall about three quarters of an arm’s length away. The patient should then place two fingers on the wall, about waist level, and slowly walk up the wall using their fingers in the same way we use legs, alternating between the index finger and middle finger as the hand ascends the wall. Make sure the walk is coming from your patient’s fingers only, and not their shoulder muscles. Patients should walk their hand up the wall as far as they comfortably can and try to repeat the walk 10 to 20 times a day.

4. A Cross-Body Reach Stretch: A Classic in Physiotherapy

This is a standard stretch that patients should be doing once or twice a week, whether they are suffering from frozen shoulder or not. Instruct your patients to use their healthy arm to push the affected arm upwards until it becomes horizontally parallel with the shoulder blades. Then, gently pull the affected arm towards the opposite shoulder across the chest. This exercise can also be performed while sitting, which is a plus if your patient is suffering from any other ailments and needs to rest.

The cross-body reach stretch helps ‘unfreeze’ a patient’s shoulders

The cross-body reach stretch helps ‘unfreeze’ a patient’s shoulders

5. Physiotherapists Know the Armpit Stretch Can Loosen the Shoulder

Instruct your patient to place his or her affected arm on a shelf or platform that is about chest-high as if extending for a front crawl swimming stroke in the pool, and tell the patient to gently bend their knees until a slight stretch in the armpit area is felt. Instruct them to repeat this 10 to 20 times daily until some relief is achieved.

Warming up to the idea of physiotherapy schools?

Unfreeze your career by contacting an advisor at NAHB today.

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