7 Stretching & Strengthening Exercises for Frozen Shoulder

by | Dec 1, 2020 | Shoulder Pain

Frozen shoulder also known as adhesive capsulitis is a condition in which the shoulder is painful and stiff with limitations in range of motion.

The following 7 exercises were originally published by Harvard Health Publishing.

In this post I will be sharing videos demonstrations of each exercise along with tips and tricks to improve the effectiveness of these exercises.

1. Pendulum (Codman Exercises)


The main goal of the pendulum exercise is to relax the shoulder and allow gravity to gently pull on the arm.


To properly perform the pendulum exercise you will lean against a stable surface allowing your body to lean forward toward the floor. As your body sways forward and backward your hand will swing in a gentle arcing range of motion.

This exercise should be pain-free while being performed.

It is often advised to perform 20-pendulum swings per set and 3 sets per episode.

2. Towel Stretch (Internal Rotation Stretch)


During the towel stretch you will be placing the back of your hand against the back of your hip on the side you will be stretching.

Place a towel or pillow case over your opposite shoulder and while gripping the towel in the hand of the shoulder being stretched your opposite hand will pull up on the other end of the towel.

Be mindful to keep the stretched shoulder in a neutral posture throughout the stretch.

It is often recommended to hold the stretch for 30-seconds before releasing the pressure. Repeat 3 reps per set.

3. Finger Walks (Wall Slides)


To perform this exercise place your hand palm down against a smooth wall or door. Walk your fingers up the wall until a gentle stretch is felt in the shoulder.

Repeat this motion 10 times holding the top position for 3-5 seconds.

Watch the video to learn variations of the Finger Walk / Wall Slide.

Finger Walks

4. Cross Body Stretch (Posterior Capsule Stretch)


To perform this exercise reach the hand of the shoulder you are stretching across the front of your body. Gently use the other hand to grasp your elbow and pull the elbow of the arm you are stretching across your body.

Hold this stretch for 30-seconds and repeat this exercise 3 times per set.

5. Arm Pit Stretch (Assisted Shoulder Flexion)


To perform this exercise place your arm on a stable surface. A desk or countertop works well. Sit in a chair beside the surface and as you lean your trunk forward your arm will be elevated into a shoulder stretch position.

Hold this position for 30-seconds. Repeat this exercise 3 times per set.

6-7. Resisted Internal / External Rotation (Strengthening Exercises)


To perform these two exercises without additional equipment you may use your opposing hand to resist the inward and outward motion of the shoulder being exercised. 

Alternatives include using a pulley system or pillow cast.

10 repetitions performed in a slow and controlled manner are most effective.

Repeat this exercise for 2 sets.

About the Author -

Anthony Maritato, PT has been a licensed physical therapist since 2006. He specializes in post surgical care and rehabilitation of total knee replacement and rotator cuff repair surgery.

Mr. Maritato is also nationally recognized as a therapist educator teaching courses related to Medicare reimbursement, contracting, and documentation.

Total Therapy Solutions LLC is Tony's primary practice which he owns with his wife Kathy who is also a licensed physical therapist.

Anthony Tony Maritato, PT

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