The best shoulder stretches to decrease pain and improve your range of motion and mobility. These are great exercises for frozen shoulder, rotator cuff tendonitis, impingement, and other common shoulder issues. Your shoulder is your most mobile joint in your body – make sure it stays that way with nine simple stretches you can do right at home to decrease tightness and pain in your shoulder.
As I mentioned earlier, your shoulder is your most mobile joint in the body.
It is actually one of our few joints that moves in home three planes of motion (forward and backwards, side to side, and rotation).
It is important to maintain mobility and range of motion in your shoulders for normal, pain-free function.
As a physical therapist, shoulder pain is a condition that I often treat in my clinic. Common conditions include impingement, arthritis, and rotator cuff tendinitis and tears to name just a few. It’s crucial that you’re able to identify these dysfunctions so you can treat them aggressively and early.
WHAT IS FROZEN SHOULDER?
“Adhesive capsulitis” is a condition where the tendons and joint capsule surrounding your shoulder become “shrunken”, “stuck” and overall immobile.
Oftentimes the painful conditions listed above can cause us to STOP using our shoulder to avoid pain. This can cause the tendons and joint capsule to actually shrink, thereby limiting our range of motion even more.
This condition is known as frozen shoulder.
HOW TO TREAT FROZEN SHOULDER
Frozen shoulder can be a difficult condition to treat.
Fortunately, if you are experiencing pain or tightness in your shoulder or symptoms of a “frozen shoulder“ there is a lot that conservative care can do to help you out. You have to do the RIGHT exercises in the RIGHT way in order to see the improvement you desire.
The key is to stretch in a COMFORTABLE, PAIN-FREE range of motion, and to do it OFTEN. As a doctor of physical therapy, the following exercises are the ones that I recommend to my patients on a daily basis.
For patients with freezing or frozen shoulder I recommend performing these exercises up to 4-5 times/day as long as they don’t hurt or increase your pain.
Most patients that I work with make really good progress with these exercises; I hope the same applies for you!
STRETCHING MUST BE COMFORTABLE AND PAIN-FREE
One caveat before we get started – whenever you perform any stretch to any area of your body, it must be in a very COMFORTABLE range.
That means I do not want you to push these shoulder stretches to a painful point. You should push just until you feel a very comfortable stretch in the area, but no pain.
If you have pushed to the point of pain, back off a little bit to a comfortable range of motion.
If you cannot perform the stretch without pain, then I wouldn’t recommend it for you and you should stick with those that don’t cause symptoms.
THE BEST STRETCHES FOR SHOULDER PAIN
Push PLAY on the video below to see video demonstration of 9 of the best shoulder stretches you can do to increase your range of motion and decrease your pain.
There are many “wand” stretches in this video. A “wand” can be anything that’s a couple of feet long and sturdy. I use a golf club in the video; you can also use a broom, mop, dowel, PVC pipe, foam roller, baseball bat, etc etc. Whatever is convenient for you!
IMPORTANT TIME STAMPS IN THIS VIDEO:
Anatomy and physiology: 1:20
1. Extension shoulder stretch: (4:10) – keep your elbow straight and push the painful limb back behind you until a comfortable stretch is felt in the front of your shoulder.
2. External rotation shoulder stretch: (4:59) – lay on your back with the elbow bent on your painful side. Use the non-painful side to push it out to the side laterally until a comfortable stretch is felt in the front of your shoulder.
3. Internal rotation shoulder stretch: (6:09) – lay on your painful side with your arm out in front of you, elbow bent to 90 degrees. Use your other hand to push down on the back of your wrist and rotate your forearm down towards the table until a comfortable stretch is felt.
4. Wand overhead shoulder stretch: (7:17) – lay on your back with the wand in both hands. Use the non-painful arm to “drive” the painful arm up and over your head until a comfortable stretch is felt.
5. Standing overhead shoulder stretch: (8:20) – stand with the hand of your painful side on top of your wand. Use the non-painful side to push the wand and other hand up towards the ceiling until a comfortable stretch is felt.
6. Standing abduction shoulder stretch: (9:09) – same position as above; now you’re going to push your painful limb out to the side and over your head until a comfortable stretch is felt.
7. 2-way doorway shoulder stretch: (10:00) – hands low on a doorway and step into it until a comfortable stretch is felt. Then hands high on the doorway with your forearm in contact with the doorway.
8. Standing external rotation shoulder stretch: (11:19) – raise your painful shoulder to 90 degrees; bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Grasp the wand with your painful hand and let it come down behind you. Now grab the opposite side of the wand with your non-painful hand and pull it forward, rotating your painful arm backwards until a comfortable stretch is felt.
There you have them! Nine of the best shoulder stretches to increase range of motion and mobility and decrease pain. Keeping your shoulder mobile is essential to proper function; perform these shoulder stretches regularly to alleviate your pain and help your shoulders to feel better.
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MORE GREAT SHOULDER PAIN VIDEOS
STOP SHOULDER IMPINGEMENT PAIN:
5 OF THE BEST ROTATOR CUFF EXERCISES:
HOW TO FIX YOUR POSTURE:
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