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Shoulder Manipulation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.


What you need to know about shoulder manipulation:

Shoulder manipulation is a procedure to relieve shoulder stiffness and poor range of motion. This procedure may be suggested if other treatment does not help. The other treatments may include exercise, medicine, and physical therapy. Shoulder manipulation breaks away scar tissue that keeps your shoulder from moving properly. The scar tissue causes severe pain and stiffness in your shoulder that affects your normal daily activities.

How to prepare for shoulder manipulation:

Make a plan for someone to drive you home and stay with you for at least a day. Your healthcare provider may tell you not to eat or drink after midnight the day before your procedure. He or she will tell you what medicine to take or not take before your procedure. Wear a comfortable shirt that can be worn under your shoulder sling.

What will happen during shoulder manipulation:

You will be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and pain-free during your procedure. Tell your healthcare provider if you or any member of your family has ever had problems with anesthesia. You may also receive an injection in your neck to numb your neck and shoulder areas. You will be on your back in the procedure room. Your healthcare provider will move your shoulder up and out, and then down and in. This will break up the scar tissue holding your shoulder in place. Your healthcare provider will make sure that your shoulder is moved through its entire range of motion. The movement will be repeated. Shoulder manipulation may be done with other procedures, such as arthroscopic capsular release.

What will happen after shoulder manipulation:

You will be sent home after you recover from anesthesia. You will need to use ice and pain medicine after you get home to help with pain and swelling. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to start exercises on your own and physical therapy. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to help strengthen your shoulder. You may have pain and swelling for up to 2 weeks after your procedure.

Risks of shoulder manipulation:

Shoulder manipulation may cause injuries to nerves and other parts of your shoulder. It may also cause your shoulder to continue to be stiff and not stable. Shoulder manipulation may cause a bone in your arm to break. Your risks increase if you smoke, have a chronic medical condition, or had previous shoulder surgery. You may have a reaction to the anesthesia you are given.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your pain becomes worse and swelling increases.
  • You have severe nausea and vomiting that continue to the day after your procedure.
  • You develop a sudden cough, trouble breathing, or chest pain.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have tingling or numbness in your arm and hand that does not go away.
  • You develop a rash or hives.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for yourself at home:

  • Apply ice to help decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Place it on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times per day, or as directed.
  • Do not strain your shoulder. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay to lift items and raise your arm over your head.
  • Do your shoulder exercises as directed. You will be taught exercises to help strengthen your shoulder and keep it mobile.

Physical therapy:

You may start physical therapy the day after your procedure. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to help strengthen your shoulder.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.