Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Stiff shoulder, painful shoulder, frozen shoulder, shoulder arthritis

Shoulder stiffness means that the shoulder is not able to move through its normal range of motion.  There are many causes of shoulder stiffness, including shoulder arthritis and frozen shoulder.  These two diagnoses can be distinguished by obtaining standardized shoulder x-rays which should be normal in a frozen shoulder but show a narrowed joint space in arthritis.

In deciding if a shoulder is stiff, it is helpful to compare its ability to perform several motions in comparison to the opposite normal shoulder. 

Here are the most important motions to compare:
      I. Internal and external rotation with the arm at the side (measured in terms of degrees from vertical)

    II. Forward elevation (measured in terms of degrees from the horizontal)

   III. Internal rotation up the back (measured in terms of the part of the back that can be reached with the thumb).

IV. Cross-body reach (measured as the distance from the elbow to the opposite shoulder).

V. Internal rotation with the arm out to the side (measured as degrees from the vertical).

The last three of these are often the motions limited early on in the process, so checking them may be revealing.

If your shoulder is stiff, check with your doctor to see how it may be best managed. 
We have found that whether the stiffness is due to arthritis or to a frozen shoulder, gentle stretching exercises are often helpful. 
Here are some other posts on stretching


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