Frozen Shoulder following Humerus fracture

Anyone experienced Frozen Shoulder following upper arm, humerus break. My own google search catastrophising seems I’m looking at months to years to recover full shoulder movement. Will full movement every even be possible?

Physio is weird. The pain when pushing beyond range of movement is acute pain rather than dis/pleasurable stretch, which I would expect. My physio says I shouldn’t stretch beyond pain but then I may as well not even bother trying because pain so acute.

This has well and truly f…k up my swimming career.

I am 8 (8 years, 3 days to be exact) years removed from a nasty humerus fracture. After a blunder in the ER applying a plastic cast, I elected to have a plate put in for recovery. Open repair, big cut, lots of soft tissue damage. Orthos told me it would be the fastest and perhaps most stable way for the bone to heal.

PT was excruciating. And recovery was arduous. I still have pain when lifting heavy and doing push type exercises. However, with a lot of focus and work I’ve regained almost 100% ROM. It was a bummer at the time, but it’s very recoverable. In fact, since I started focusing on ROM and strength, I’m probably more capable now. Be patient with the recovery.

Chin up! Sending you healing vibes! Lots of calcium, vitamin D and bone broth! You CAN come back from this.

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Frozen shoulder is a known risk of humerus fracture. Depending upon where you are in your recovery from the humerus fracture, you may be a candidate for a manipulation under anesthesia. I’d have a direct conversation with your orthopedic surgeon – not your PT – on this specific issue. You should ultimately achieve a good recovery. I wish you the best of luck!

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Frozen shoulder is more of a disease process than tight tissue that can be stretched or manipulated by your PT. In most cases, self stretching or manual therapy can improve your ROM somewhat but the biggest factor is time. I have had patients where I did manual therapy for 30 minutes to gain 5 degrees of ROM, and patients who have had a manipulation who come out with identical shoulder ROM (I have never had an MUA of the shoulder with this that gained ROM meaningfully, they did however have minimal pain after).

Unfortunately there is a freezing, frozen, and thawing phase - where PT is and is not effective - but the biggest thing is just time. It will resolve eventually but it is not something you can stretch through (this is my opinion - other people might have had different experiences, but this is my clinical experience). It can take months but you should regain your ROM with time.

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I can’t speak to the fractured humerus contribution, but having had frozen shoulder on both shoulders, I can attest to the lengthy, painful recovery period. The official diagnosis of cause was “You’re over 40 and sh*t happens.” PT was the most painful medical thing I’ve ever endured, including recovery from broken ribs and knee surgery.

The first one (my right) took about 18 months from onset of discomfort/pain to full recovery, including about 12 weeks of PT. The second (left this time) was longer, and still not 100%. I have difficulty reaching the center pocket in my jersey, but it is improving.

The pain is definitely an acute pain, not a dull pain. With regular frozen shoulder, you MUST move through the point of pain or you will take forever to recover. The more you can push past that twinge in everyday life, the shorter your recovery will likely be. But like everything, you can overdo it. If the pain continues for more than a few seconds after you return from the movement back to the normally pain-free range, you probably went a bit too far and should rest it and be gentle the next time you go through the pain point.

If your PT is telling you not to stretch past the point of pain, I recommend asking for clarification. It may be because you’re still recovering from the surgery, but everything I’ve read, and my own PT experience, contradict that.

The very worst thing you can do is reduce your movement. It’s a vicious cycle - the less you move, the more it hurts to move, so the less you move.

Good luck, and hang in there. It will get better, it’ll just take time.



Had frozen shoulder for other reasons - coming up to 2 years now! First year was really painfull at times but as said earlier it really does just take time. Dont force it just gentle rehab stuff to build / maintain strength

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Hands down the hardest thing I treat, whether it’s a humerus fracture with surgery and fixation, or non-surgical fracture. I always start off telling the patient it’s going to be a long road, we’re going to get to know each other really well, they’re probably not going to like me at times, and they’d better do their homework. I usually single-book those patients and do 30-45 minutes manual/hands on treatment, to include a lot of soft tissue work (subscap release, biceps, pec etc. but especially subscap). A lot of PT’s won’t/can’t commit that much time. If yours is doing 10-15 min of hands on and then turning you over to a “tech”, consider a new PT. Ask your shoulder doc who the best “shoulder PT” is in town. As far as pain, I tell patients to push to the point of tightness and discomfort, right up to the edge of pain and stop. I would definitely order a set of overhead door pulleys off Amazon and use them a lot, in addition to what your PT gives you for “homework”. Good luck, and stick to the plan

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I broke my upperarm (humerus) last year as a result of falling off my bike and got an frozen shoulder as a result.

Six weeks after the accident (4 weeks after the operation) I got permission to start moving the arm carefully. I did dry needling sessions every other week and i think i regained full movement and range 5-6 months after the accident.

Especially the first weeks are hard because you need to stretch to regain range of motion; but have to keep the balance and not put in too much effort. I really benefitted from having a shoulder pulley and a squat rack at home so i could practice a couple times a day (few minutes at the time).

Good luck and let me know if you need any info :slight_smile: