Adhesive Capsulitis | Treatment


How is adhesive capsulitis treated?

Your doctor will tell you about exercises you can do to help break up the scar tissue in your shoulder. You may need to see a physical therapist to help you with these exercises. You can try the exercises listed below at home, but remember to always follow your doctor's instructions.

Sometimes the exercises hurt, so your doctor may give you something for the pain or to relax your muscles. Putting a heating pad or an ice pack on your shoulder for a few minutes before you do the exercise may also help with the pain. Always remember to warm up for 5 to 10 minutes before starting your exercises. Warm up by doing very gentle exercises and small movements with your shoulder. Don't forget to warm up and stretch other parts of your body (neck, back, hands and elbows), too.

Here are 3 good exercises you can try:

  • Climbing the wall: Put your hand flat on a wall in front of you. Use your fingers to "climb" up the wall (like a "spider"). As you move your fingers up little by little, stop and hold your hand in place for 30 seconds every few inches. Move your fingers up the wall as high as you can reach. Keep trying to go higher.
  • Codman exercise: Sit sideways in a straight chair. Rest your armpit on the back of the chair. Now swing your arm slowly in circles. Make little circles at first and then make bigger circles. Make the circles in both directions.
  • Reaching: Put things you use every day (shoes, coffee cup, toothbrush) on a high shelf. This way you have to reach up for things more often. The reaching is a good stretch for your shoulder.

Do the exercises once or twice a day even after your shoulder gets better. Don't forget to exercise your healthy shoulder too, so that you can maintain the movement that you have in that shoulder.

Many people who have adhesive capsulitis get full use of their shoulder back. Others may always have a little stiffness and pain in that shoulder. This stiffness is usually not very bad. You should be able to do all the activities you did before you had adhesive capsulitis.


Adhesive Capsulitis: A Sticky Issue by LB Siegel, M.D., NJ Cohen, M.D., and EP Gall, M.D. (American Family Physician April 01, 1999,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 09/00