Frozen shoulder, or medically known as adhesive capsulitis is a shoulder condition that involves stiffness and limited motion in all directions, along with mild-severe pain. There are multiple causes of this condition – ranging from direct trauma to shoulder injuries and muscle spasms. Various stretching exercises that specifically target shoulder muscles are usually considered the cornerstone of addressing frozen shoulder.
Following are some of the best shoulder stretching exercises that help to reduce pain, strengthen the muscles and prevent future injuries. Always warm up shoulder muscles before doing these exercises. You can also take a 10-15 minute warm shower or use a microwave-heated damp towel for a quick warm-up session.
1. Pendulum Stretch
- This is one of the most effective shoulder stretching exercises to help relax and strengthen your shoulders.
- Stand tall and lean over slightly, such that the affected arm hang down freely.
- About a foot in diameter, swing the arm in a small circular motion. Perform 10-15 reps in each direction, once or twice a day.
- You can increase the diameter of the swing as your symptoms improve.
2. Towel Stretch
- Get a three-foot-long towel.
- Hold the towel in a horizontal position from its one end behind your back and grasp the second end with your other hand.
- Use your healthy arm to stretch the affected arm upward.
- Hold the towel in this position for 15-20 seconds and do this 10 to 20 times a day.
3. Cross-Body Reach
- You can do this exercise in both sitting as well as standing position.
- Use your healthy arm to lift the affected arm at the elbow height.
- Apply gentle pressure to stretch the shoulder by bringing the affected arm up and across your body.
- Hold the arm for 5 seconds in the beginning and increase the holding time later. Perform this exercise 10 to 15 times per day.
4. Finger walk
- Stand tall and face the wall about two-quarters of an arm’s length away.
- Reach out and touch the wall at waist level with the fingertips of the affected arm.
- Slightly bend your elbow and gradually walk your fingers up to the wall in spider-like fashion.
- Raise your arm up to the wall as far as you comfortably can.
- Make sure that your fingers are doing the work, not your shoulder muscles.
- Gradually lower the arm to the starting position and repeat.
5. Armpit Stretch
- Use your healthy arm to lift the affected arm onto a shelf.
- Slowly bend your knees to open up the armpit.
- Gently stretch the armpit by deepening your knee bend slightly. Stretch a little further with each knee bends, but don’t force it.
- Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and repeat this 5 to 10 times a day.
With time, as your intensity of exercises and range of motion improves, you should also consider adding rotator cuff–strengthening exercises. Still, if your condition does not improve, consult a professional physician or physiotherapists to check for other underlying causes that may be hindering your ability to improve frozen shoulders.