Frozen Shoulder: Exercises That You Can Do To Relieve Shoulder Pain


Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in your shoulder joint. Common symptoms include swelling, pain and stiffness.

Who is at risk of a frozen shoulder?

  • A person with prolonged period of shoulder immobility due to an injury also makes one vulnerable to inflammation.
  • Those with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke are at greater risk of getting this.
  • Often developed in individuals above 40 years old with no reason.
  • More likely to occur in women.

What are some symptoms of a frozen shoulder?

Common issues include being unable to reach above shoulder height, reach out to your side and back, and sleep on your side.

How can we treat a frozen shoulder?

Stretching exercises are usually the basis to treating frozen shoulder, allowing you to regain the lost of motion. We consult Mr Lim Hun Teck, Chief Physiotherapist, Raffles Rehabilitation Centre, on exercises that you can do to relieve shoulder pain.

NOTE: You should stretch to the point of tension but not feel pain.

TIP: Warm up your shoulder before the exercises by taking a warm shower for 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, place a warm towel over your shoulder.

Exercises to relieve shoulder pain:

Standing Flexion Cane

1. Hold a light pole (or a broom stick) in front of your body at shoulder level, parallel to the ground.

2. Slowly raise the pole above your head while keeping your arms straight. If possible, do not bend your elbows.

3. Hold for five seconds and return to position.

4. Do this for 10 to 20 times.

Wall Climb

1. Face a wall and with the fingertips of your affected arm, reach out and touch the wall starting at waist level.

2. With your elbow slightly bent, slowly walk your fingers up the wall as far as you can.

3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds before returning the arm to the starting position.

4. Repeat 10 times.

NOTE: Do not overstretch by elevating the shoulder.

Shoulder Cross Body Stretch

1. Lift the affected arm at the elbow by using your other arm. Bring it up and across your body.

2. Exert a gentle pressure to stretch the shoulder.

3. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds.

4. Do this 10 to 20 times a day.

Standing Pendulum

1. Place the arm of your unaffected shoulder on a table and lean forward with the affected arm hanging by the side of your body.

2. Swing the affected arm in small circles (less than eight inches in diameter).

3. Perform 10 turns in each direction.

Towel Stretch

1. Use the unaffected arm to hold an end of the towel in front of you and drape it over your shoulder. Use the affected arm to catch the other end of the towel behind you.

2. Pull down the towel using the unaffected arm. You will feel a stretch in the shoulder joint as the affected arm is pulled upwards.

3. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly release.

4. Do this 10 times.

Extension Cane

1. Standing shoulder width apart, hold a cane or an umbrella behind your body with palms facing up.

2. Extend the cane upwards slowly until you feel a stretch in your shoulders.

3. Hold for five to 10 seconds and return to starting position.

4. Do this for 10 to 20 times.

NOTE: For beginners, start slow and increase the number of repetitions as you progress.