9 Best Frozen Shoulder Exercises for Pain Relief

Person holding her shoulder with a red area marking the painful area

Do you have shoulder pain? Is it stiff, and does it hurt to lift your arm? If you answered yes to these questions, you might have a frozen shoulder. 

If you have a frozen shoulder, stretching and strengthening it is the best thing you can do to treat it. Listed below are exercises you can do at home and with a physical therapist to get you on your way to feeling your best.


What is a Frozen Shoulder?


Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is a painful condition in which the shoulder joint is stiff, painful, and loses the normal range of motion in all directions. This condition can be serious and, if not treated correctly, can get much worse over time. 

It’s not fully understood what causes a frozen shoulder, but it most likely stems from an inflammatory process. In many cases, the cause is unknown. 

Sometimes freezing occurs because the shoulder has been immobilized for an extended period of time from surgery, injury, or illness. 

Fortunately, with proper treatment, the shoulder can usually be unfrozen. Full recovery can take a lot of patience, self-help, and professional treatment. 

If you suffer from a frozen shoulder, seeing a physiotherapist is one of the best and smartest things you can do to expedite recovery.


Frozen Shoulder Exercises


It’s important to warm up your shoulder muscle before performing the exercises listed below. The best method is to take a warm shower or bath for ten to fifteen minutes, but you can also use a moist heating pad or a damp towel heated in the microwave. 

When performing a shoulder exercise, stretch to the point where you feel tension, but immediately stop if you feel pain.




1. Armpit Stretch


Use your good arm to lift the affected arm onto a shelf or platform that is about breast-high.

Gently bend your knees while opening up your armpit, then slightly deepen your knee bend until you feel a gentle stretch in your armpit. 

Straighten and repeat. 

With each knee bend, stretch a bit further to the point where it feels slightly uncomfortable but not painful. 

Repeat 10-20 times each day until healed.


2. Towel Stretch


Hold the end of a three-foot-long towel behind your back and grab the second end with the other hand.

Hold the towel in a horizontal position. 

Use your good arm to pull the injured arm upward to stretch it. 

Repeat 10-20 times each day until healed.


3. Finger Walk


Face a wall and stand about six to eight inches away from the wall. 

Reach out and touch the wall, waist level with the index and middle finger of the injured arm. 

With a slightly bent elbow, slowly walk your fingers up the wall until you have raised your arm as far as comfortable. 

Make sure your fingers are doing the work and not your shoulder muscle. 

Slowly lower the arm to starting position. 

Repeat 10-20 times a day until healed.


4. Pendulum Exercise


Stand next to a counter or table that is about waist-high. 

Relax your shoulders, lean over slightly, and place the hand of the uninjured arm on the surface for support. 

Let the injured arm hang down and swing in a small circle, about a foot in diameter. 

Perform ten revolutions in each direction. 

Increase the diameter of the circle as your shoulder heals, but never force it. 

When ready, you can add a light weight in the hand of the swinging arm.


5. Cross-Body Reach


People who have severe cases of frozen shoulder may not initially be able to do the cross-body stretch.

Sit or stand. 

Use your good arm to lift your injured arm at the elbow and bring it up and across your body.

Exert gentle pressure to stretch the shoulder joint, stop if it becomes painful. 

Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. 

Repeat 10-20 times a day until healed.




Improving the mobility and strength of your rotator cuff can help you quickly return to regular activity if you have a frozen shoulder.


Chiropractor holding patient's shoulder and twisting his arm to heal his shoulder pain


6. Outward Rotation with a Resistance Band


Hold a resistance band between your hands with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and close to your sides. 

Rotate the lower part of the injured arm outward two or three inches. 

Hold for five seconds. 

Repeat 1-15 times a day until healed.


7. Rotator Cuff Strengthening with a Resistance Band


Stand next to a closed door and hook one end of a resistance band around the doorknob. 

Hold the other end of the band with the injured arm while keeping your elbow at a 90-degree angle. 

Move the band about two to three inches towards your body and hold for five seconds. 

Repeat 10-20 times a day until healed.


8. Scapular Stabilization Exercises


When you have a frozen shoulder, you may start to use different methods to compensate for the lack of motion in your shoulder. 

For example, many people move their shoulder blade excessively when they lift their arm, putting stress on their shoulder blade and affecting shoulder stability. 

This scapular stabilization exercise helps regulate the way you use your shoulder blade. 

Perform this exercise on your bed or a similar surface. 

Raise the head and chest slightly while lifting the arms and pulling them rearward. 

Make fists with your hands as they move toward the shoulders. 

Return to the starting position.

Repeat the exercise while using your arms to form an “I,” “T,” and “Y.” 

Repeat 10-15 times a day until healed.


9. Passive Shoulder Range of Motion Exercises


Passive range of motion (ROM) for your shoulder is a great way to improve your shoulder mobility. But with passive ROM, you need another person to help you do the exercise. This helps keep your shoulder relaxed during the exercises and increases mobility. 

Your physiotherapist can perform many different passive ROM exercises to help rapidly improve the strength and mobility of your shoulder. 

Common directions of motion that you work on during passive ROM include abduction, flexion, internal rotation, and external rotation.

Frozen shoulder can be a painful and limiting condition that prevents you from normally moving your arm and shoulder. By checking in with your physiotherapist and coming up with an action plan, you may be able to quickly and safely heal your shoulder.

At Runway Health, our team of physiotherapists takes the time to understand your shoulder injury and formulate a treatment protocol with various specialized techniques to get you better faster.

Let us help you get you back to doing what you love! Call or text (905) 209 – 2777 to get the Physio Special – 20% off your first exam and treatment!