exercises to help a frozen shoulder

Our extensive research on frozen shoulder contracture syndrome revealed that stretching and some strengthening exercises are usually prescribed to patients. Harvard medical school published an article that recommends the following 7 exercises to help a frozen shoulder.

We recommend you visit a clinician prior to attempting any exercises to ensure it is safe for you to perform them. You can also visit us at our clinic and experience a free 30 minute session with us to help you better understand the limits of your shoulder and how you can improve your shoulder health. In the next article we describe the exercises we typically prescribe for those with a frozen shoulder and how they are designed to be better than these home-based exercises.

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1 – Pendulum stretch




Pendulum stretch by Harvard Medical School

Begin by relaxing your shoulders. Lean over a table or a desk as shown in the above illustration with your effected shoulder and arm hanging down relaxed.

Slowly swing your hanging arm in small clockwise circles that are approximately 1 ft wide 10 times. Then perform another 10 circles but in an anti-clockwise direction.

Harvard recommend you perform this stretch once a day and gradually increase the size of the circles without forcing it as you feel your condition improves.

If and when you feel ready you can hold a small weight 1-2kg (3-5lb) and perform the circles.

2 – Towel stretch

You should use a towel that is approximately 3 ft long.

Hold each end such that the towel is horizontal, stretched out and both of your hands are behind your back. If your hands come by your sides hold the towel further in from each end.

Bend your good arm so that the towel moves upwards. As it moves up, the towel will pull on your affected shoulder stretching it.

Harvard recommend you do this 10 to 20 times a day.

There is an advanced version of this stretch but we do not recommend it to our readers as a small mistake can lead to injury.

3 – Finger walk

Start by facing a wall 3/4 of an arm’s length away.

Place your index and middle finger of the affected shoulder/arm on the wall at wasit height.

Walk up the wall with your fingers as far as you comfortably can whilst keeping your elbow slightly flexed.

You should be raising your arm by pulling up with your fingers rather than using your shoulder muscles. It is important to keep your shoulder as relaxed as possible.

Gradually lower your arm and use your good arm to help if need be.

Harvard recommedn you perform this exercise 10 to 20 times a day.

4 – Cross-body reach

You can perform this stretch whilst sitting or standing.

Raise your affected arm across your body by lifting it at the elbow with your good arm, as shown in the illustration above.

You want to gently pull the elbow towards your good shoulder without allowing your affected shoulder to move upwards. Try to keep your shoulder down as much as comfortably possible.

Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and perform this stretch 10 to 20 times per day.

5 – Armpit stretch

You may need to find a shelf or some sort of a flat surface that is at chest height.

Lift the affected arm with your good arm onto the surface. Then keeping your arm on the surface, slowly bend your knees. You should begin to feel your armpit stretching.

Bend your knees slightly more to stretch the armpit a little more and then slowly stand again. Repeat this and with each repetition, bend your knees a little more to stretch your armpit a little more, but never force it.

Harvard recommend you do this 10 to 20 times each day.

This is the end of the stretching exercises. Your shoulder should now be warmed up to perform the following strengthening exercises. If they are not, please ensure you are adequtely stretched and warmed up to prevent any injury.

6 – Internal rotation

We recommend starting with internal rotation rather than external as this is what we typically prescribe to our patients. Our patients find that it helps their shoulders open up a little more for the next exercise.

You will need a rubber band of some sort to perform this exercise.

Hook one end of the rubber band to a door handle or door knob of a closed door. Please ensure the door is not open as it will hit you when you perform your exercise.

If you cannot hook it to a door knob, you can trap the end of the rubber band in between the door and the door frame. Please ensure the rubber band cannot fling out when pulled on.

Take hold of the other end with your affected side and flex your elbo so that your upper arm and lower arm make a 90 degree angle. Ensure that your upper arm and elbow remain against your side throughout the exercise.

Slowly pull the rubber band towards your body 2-3 inches and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times, once a day.

7 – External rotation

Take hold of each end of the rubber band keeping your upper arm and elbows by your sides. Ensure both of your arms are flexed to 90 degrees.

Rotate your affected arm outward and away from your 2-3 inches and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this 10 to 15 times, once a day.

Will these exercises work for your frozen shoulder?

We or Harvard cannot guarantee that these exercises to help a frozen shoulder will work for you. However, we do encourage our readers to come and visit our clinic for a free 30 minute session to experience what our treatments would be like, how we individiualise them to you and gain a much better understanding of your current shoulder health in more detail.

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