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5 Exercises for Frozen Shoulder

While frozen shoulder is common,  it presents differently for every individual who suffers from symptoms. 


Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition in which the shoulder is stiff, painful, and has a limited range of motion in all directions due to a buildup of scar tissue. It occurs in about 2-5% of the American population and typically affects more women than men over 45.


Exercise and movement are essential for a successful recovery from a frozen shoulder. It’s best to consult with a highly trained physical therapist before performing any activities to avoid further pain or injury.


Below are five exercises that can help relieve frozen shoulder:


  1. Pendulum stretch
    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 ten 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 lightweight (three to five pounds) in the swinging arm.
  2. Cross-body shoulder reach
    Sit or stand. Use your unaffected arm to lift the arm experiencing frozen shoulder at the elbow, and bring it up and across your body, applying gentle pressure to stretch the shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Do this 10 to 20 times per day.
  3. Towel stretch
    Hold one end of a three-foot-long towel behind your back and grab the opposite end with your other hand. Hold the towel in a horizontal position. Use your unaffected arm to pull the arm experiencing frozen shoulder upward to feel a stretch. 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 a day.
  4. Outward rotation
    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.
  5. Inward rotation
    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.


A highly qualified physical therapist will work with you one-on-one to create an individualized plan of care that best fits your symptoms and abilities. After your Plan of Care is established, your physical therapist will perform a series of treatments to ensure you safely regain full range of motion and strength in the shoulder once again.


Speak with a physical therapist today to schedule an initial evaluation of your condition to receive proper care and treatment.







Jessica Jones

Physical Therapist

Jessica recently moved to Seattle from Boston, MA and is excited to join the Therapydia team. Her treatment experience includes orthopedics, sports medicine, pediatrics, and vestibular therapy. Jessica received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University in Boston, MA in 2016. She has completed the Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency at Boston Children’s Hospital and is in the process of completing a Comprehensive Vestibular Rehabilitation certification. Jessica believes in empowering and inspiring patients to take control of their health through education, movement, and exercise. She enjoys treating patients of all ages and levels while utilizing soft tissue techniques, neuromuscular re-education, balance training as well as therapeutic exercise. In her free time, Jessica enjoys yoga, dancing, kayaking, and hiking with her dog!


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