Exercises for Shoulder Impingement

These are some examples of exercises which may help with your shoulder impingement problem. The exercises should not be painful. They may feel hard work, stretchy or aching. Often a physiotherapist will guide you with exercises specific for your shoulder.  However, in general terms, if you try the exercise on both arms and it feels much more difficult, hard work, stretchy on the problem shoulder, it would be worth you trying that particular exercise. You do not need to do all the exercises listed below! Continue with the exercises which feel different on the problematic shoulder, aiming to try and get rid of the difference between the two arms. Do the exercises regularly 1–2 times a day.

Do not continue with them if the pain worsens. Reduce them by doing them less often or less forcefully. If the pain is still worse, see the physiotherapist or doctor.

Shoulder blade exercises

1. Sitting or standing

  • Keep your arms relaxed.
  • ‘Square’ your shoulder blades back.
  • Hold it for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times.
  • Do not let your back arch, breathe!
  • If one shoulder is lower, ‘square’ it by lifting that one, UP and back.
  • Lying face down, with head in front on a towel or turned towards shoulder.



2. Keep arm relaxed by side

  • Lift shoulder straight up in air. Try and keep a gap approximately 5 cms between front of shoulder and bed.
  • Hold the shoulder up for 30 seconds but arm relaxed by side. Repeat 4 times.
  • Progress – by lifting the arm up and down (elbow straight), but keeping the shoulder blade up all the time.
  • Aim to do this for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 4 times.


Standing close to and facing a wall/door
3. Arms up overhead in a V shape

  • Little fingers against the wall, thumbs pointing back behind shoulders.
  • Rest your arms against the wall.
  • Shrug your shoulder blades up, letting the hands slide upwards.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Progress by pulling shoulder blades together whilst they are shrugged up.



Stretching exercises
4. Overhead stretch lying on your back

  • Knees bent up and feet flat on floor/bed.
  •  Stretch your problem shoulder arm up overhead,using your other arm. Aim to try and get the upper arm towards the floor/bed.
  • Repeat 3–5 times, holding for 20 seconds.


Stand or sit.
5. Cross body stretch. Take arm across your body

  • Giving a gentle stretch with your other hand at the elbow. Try and keep your shoulder down.
  • The stretch should be felt at the back of the shoulder and upper arm.
  • Repeat 3–5 times, holding for 20 seconds.
  • Do not do if it is painful in the front of the shoulder
  • Sometimes you can feel more stretch if you lie on your back to do the movement.

Patient Information Leaflets Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust