Exercises for Frozen Shoulder

These are some examples of exercises to stretch your shoulder. Do exercises regularly 1–2 times a day. You may find them easier to do after a hot shower or bath. Using a hot water bottle is another alternative.

It is normal for you to feel aching or stretching sensations when doing these exercises. However severe and lasting pain (e.g. more than 30 minutes) is not recommended. Reduce the exercises by doing them less often or less forcefully. If the pain is still severe discontinue the exercises and see the physiotherapist or doctor.

Please note: Raising your arm forwards often improves first. Getting your hand behind your low back appears to be the last movement to return. Do not do these movements if they are painful rather than stiff.

1. Pendulum 

  • Lean forwards with support (shown for left shoulder)
  • Let arm hang down
  • Swing arm forwards and back side to side around in circles (both ways) Repeat 5–10 times each movement



2. Twisting outwards Sitting holding a stick (rolling pin, umbrella)

• Keep elbow into your side throughout
• Push with unaffected arm so hand of problem side
is moving away from the mid-line
(can be done lying down)
• Do not let your body twist round to compensate
• Repeat 5–10 times



3. Arm overhead Lying on your back (shown for left shoulder)
• Support problem arm with other hand at wrist
and lift it up overhead
• Do not let your back arch
• Can start with elbows bent
• Repeat 5–10 times



4. Twisting outwards/arm overhead Lying on your back, knees bent and feet flat

  • Place hands behind neck or head, elbows up to ceiling
  • Let elbows fall outwards
  • Repeat 5–10 times


5. Kneeling on all fours Keep your hands still

  • Gently sit back towards your heels
  • To progress take your knees further
  • away from your hand Repeat 5–10 times




6. Sit or stand

  • Try and set up a pulley system with the pulley or ring high above you.
  • Pull down with your better arm to help lift the stiff arm up
  • Repeat 10 times NB. Normally it is best to have the fixed pulley point behind you.



7. Stretching the back of the shoulder (shown for left shoulder)

  • Take hand of your problem shoulder across body towards opposite shoulder
  • Give gentle stretch by pulling with your uninvolved arm at the elbow
  • Sometimes you can feel more stretch if you lie on your back to do the movement
  • Repeat 5 times, holding for 20 seconds

8. Hand behind back Standing with arms by side

  • Grasp wrist of problem arm and gently stretch hand towards your opposite buttock
  • slide your arm up your back
  • Can progress and use a towel
  • Repeat 5 times
    Remember this is often the last movement to return – do not force if
    painful, rather than stiff

Patient Information Leaflets Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust