7 Stretching & strengthening exercises for a frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder (also known as adhesive capsulitis) is a condition in which the shoulder is stiff, painful, and has limited motion in all directions.

Stretching exercises are usually the cornerstone of treating frozen shoulder.

Always warm up your shoulder before performing your exercises. I do not normally advocate the use of heat, normally I’m all about the R.I.C.E but in this instance I think it is useful. You want to warm the shoulder without too much movement. The best way to do that is to take a warm shower or bath for 10 to 15 minutes. You can also use a moist heating pad or damp towel heated in the microwave, but it may not be as effective.

Assisted stretching or Post isometric release can help you achieve results in a controlled environment and make sure you do them properly. Soft Tissue therapy does exactly that. Be careful when selecting a therapist, a basic sports massage may not be the best solution here. Here are some examples of stretches you can do yourself.

In performing the following exercises, stretch to the point of tension but not pain.


1. Pendulum stretch


Pendulum Stretch - sports massage

Do this exercise first. Relax your shoulders. Stand and lean over slightly, allowing the affected arm to hang down. Swing the arm in a small circle — about a foot in diameter. Perform 10 revolutions in each direction, once a day. As your symptoms improve, increase the diameter of your swing, but never force it. When you’re ready for more, increase the stretch by holding a light weight (one to three kilo’s) in the arm with the frozen shoulder.


2. Towel stretch

Towel Stretch - Sports Massage

Hold one end of a towel behind your back and grab the opposite end with your other hand, the length in between should be about three feet. Hold the towel in a horizontal position. Use your good arm to pull the affected frozen shoulder upward to stretch it. You can also do an advanced version of this exercise with the towel draped over your good shoulder. Hold the bottom of the towel with the affected arm and pull it toward the lower back with the unaffected arm. Do this 10 to 20 times as part of a daily routine.


3. Finger walk

Finger walk - sports massage

Face a wall three-quarters of an arm’s length away. Reach out and touch the wall at waist level with the fingertips of the affected arm. With your elbow slightly bent, slowly walk your fingers up the wall, spider-like, until you’ve raised your arm as far as you comfortably can. Your fingers should be doing the work, not your shoulder muscles. Slowly lower the arm (with the help of the good arm, if necessary) and repeat. Perform this exercise 10 to 20 times again as part of a routine.

Measure on the wall your progress and aim to achieve a little more each day, be careful not to force it though.


4. Cross-body reach

cross body stretch - sports massage

Sit or stand. Use your good arm to lift your affected arm at the elbow, and bring it up and across your body, exerting gentle pressure to stretch the shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Do this 10 to 20 times per day.


5. Armpit stretch

Armpit stretch frozen shoulder sports massage

Using your good arm, lift the affected arm onto a shelf about breast-high. Gently bend your knees, opening up the armpit. Deepen your knee bend slightly, gently stretching the armpit, and then straighten. With each knee bend, stretch a little further, but don’t force it. Do this 10 to 20 times also. Again you can measure the depth you are able to reach to monitor your progress.


Starting to strengthen.


As your range of motion improves, add rotator cuff–strengthening exercises. Be sure to warm up your shoulder and do your stretching exercises before you perform strengthening exercises.


6. Outward rotation

outward rotation frozen shoulder sports massage

Hold a rubber exercise band between your hands with your elbows at a 90-degree angle close to your sides. Rotate the lower part of the affected arm outward two or three inches and hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times, once a day.


7. Inward rotation

inward rotation frozen shoulder sports massage

Stand next to a closed door, and hook one end of a rubber exercise band around the doorknob. Hold the other end with the hand of the affected arm, holding your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Pull the band toward your body two or three inches and hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times, once a day.


You need to be disciplined with yourself to make sure you do the exercises regularly. Alternatively come and see me and we’ll work through it together and I’ll assist you with the stretches and ensure the surrounding tissue is well maintained.

Give me a call on 07908 339 864 or email me at [email protected]

Taken from an original article