Austin Manual Therapy

Stretching Exercises for Frozen Shoulder

Stretching Exercises for Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, medically known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. This condition occurs when the shoulder capsule thickens and tightens around the shoulder joint, restricting its movement. It typically develops gradually and can significantly impact daily activities, making even simple tasks like reaching for a cup or dressing a challenge. The condition progresses through three stages: the freezing stage, where pain worsens and movement becomes limited; the frozen stage, where pain might lessen but the shoulder remains stiff; and the thawing stage, where movement gradually improves. This blog will help you understand and address frozen shoulders early, which is crucial to prevent long-term discomfort and regain mobility. We will also look at frozen shoulder exercises that will help in alleviating discomfort brought on by a frozen shoulder.

Common Symptoms and Impact on Daily Activities

The primary symptoms of a frozen shoulder include persistent pain and restricted range of motion in the shoulder. These symptoms can interfere with everyday tasks such as lifting objects, reaching overhead, or even sleeping comfortably. The pain and stiffness often worsen at night, leading to sleep disturbances and fatigue. Daily routines become increasingly challenging, affecting overall quality of life. The shoulder pain can extend to the shoulder blade and upper arm bone, causing further discomfort. Managing these frozen shoulder symptoms exercises can help alleviate some of the pain and improve function.

Importance of Stretching and Physical Therapy in Treatment

Stretching exercises and physical therapy exercises for frozen shoulder are vital components in the treatment of frozen shoulder. Regular stretching helps maintain and gradually improve the range of motion, preventing further stiffness. Physical therapy sessions guided by a healthcare professional can provide targeted exercises and techniques to alleviate pain and promote healing. Consistent practice of these exercises at home, along with professional guidance, can significantly speed up recovery and restore normal shoulder function. Incorporating gentle stretching exercises, such as the internal rotation stretch, can be particularly beneficial in addressing stiffness and improving mobility.

Stretching Exercises for Frozen Shoulder

Stretching Exercises for Frozen Shoulder

Stretching exercises for frozen shoulder are essential for improving mobility and reducing discomfort. For both beginners and advanced practitioners, incorporating these exercises into your daily routine can help manage pain and enhance shoulder function. By understanding your pain threshold and performing these exercises consistently, patients often experience relief from pain. Below are examples of exercises that can be performed several times per day to aid in recovery and maintain flexibility.

Pendulum Stretch

The pendulum stretch is a gentle exercise that helps increase the range of motion in the shoulder without causing additional strain.

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Stand and lean forward slightly, allowing your affected arm to hang down.
  2. Swing your arm gently in a small circular motion, about a foot in diameter.
  3. Perform the motion for about 10 circles in each direction, once or twice a day.

Tips for Effectiveness and Safety:

  • Use a chair or table for support if needed.
  • Keep movements smooth and avoid jerking motions.
  • Gradually increase the size of the circles as your shoulder loosens up.
  • Applying an ice pack after the exercise can help reduce any inflammation.

Towel Stretch

How to Perform:

  1. Hold a towel behind your back with one hand, and grab the opposite end with your other hand.
  2. Use the towel to gently pull your affected arm upward, stretching the shoulder.
  3. Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds, then relax. Repeat 5-10 times.

Benefits for Shoulder Mobility:

  • Helps improve the range of motion.
  • Can be easily adjusted for different levels of flexibility.
  • Enhances flexibility in the soft tissues and connective tissue of the shoulder.


  • Perform the stretch with the towel positioned horizontally for a different angle.
  • Use a resistance band for added stretch and strengthening.

Cross-Body Reach

Technique and Positioning:

  1. Sit or stand comfortably.
  2. Use your unaffected shoulder arm to lift your affected arm at the elbow and bring it across your body, stretching the shoulder.
  3. Hold for 15-20 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10-15 times.

Expected Outcomes from Regular Practice:

  • Increased flexibility and reduced stiffness.
  • Improved ability to perform daily activities.
  • Enhanced flexibility in the shoulder muscles and soft tissues.

Adjustments for Pain Management:

  • Apply a warm shower before stretching to ease the pain.
  • Perform the stretch slowly and avoid pushing through intense pain.

Armpit Stretch

Detailed Instructions:

  1. Use your unaffected arm to lift your affected arm onto a shelf at chest height.
  2. Bend your knees gently to open up your armpit and stretch the shoulder.
  3. Hold for 10-20 seconds, then straighten up. Repeat 10-15 times.

How This Stretch Helps:

  • Targets the muscles and tissues in the shoulder for improved flexibility.
  • Helps reduce tightness in the armpit area.
  • Enhances movement in the shoulder capsule.


  • Avoid overstretching and causing additional pain.
  • Perform the stretch gently, especially if you feel resistance.

Finger Walk

Exercise Process:

  1. Stand facing a wall about three-quarters of an arm’s length away.
  2. Using your fingers, “walk” your affected arm up the wall as high as you comfortably can.
  3. Hold at the top point for a few seconds, then walk your fingers back down. Repeat 10-20 times.

Goals for Range of Motion Improvements:

  • Gradually increase the height you can reach over time.
  • Aim for smooth and controlled movements.

Progression Tips:

  • Try to reach a bit higher each day.
  • Incorporate this exercise into your daily routine for consistent improvement.

Additional Treatment Options

Additional Treatment Options

While stretching exercises are crucial, additional treatments can enhance recovery. Physical therapy should be considered if home exercises aren’t providing sufficient relief, as it offers personalized guidance and advanced techniques from healthcare professionals. Medications also play a role; over-the-counter pain relievers can manage symptoms, and prescription medications might be necessary for severe pain. In some cases, steroid injections may be recommended to reduce inflammation and pain. If conservative treatments fail, surgical interventions such as shoulder arthroscopy may be considered to release the tight joint capsule. Consulting with a healthcare provider for personalized recommendations is essential to determine the best course of action.


Managing a frozen shoulder requires a combination of consistent stretching, physical therapy exercises for frozen shoulder, and possibly additional treatments. By incorporating these exercises into your daily routine and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can improve your shoulder mobility and reduce pain. Patience and perseverance are key to overcoming this condition and returning to your normal activities.

At Austin Manual Therapy Associates, we specialize in providing comprehensive physical therapy tailored to address various musculoskeletal issues, including shoulder pain. Our experienced therapists use evidence-based techniques to design personalized treatment plans that incorporate effective frozen shoulder exercises, helping you achieve pain relief and restore your shoulder’s mobility. Get in touch with us now and take the first step towards living pain-free!


What can trigger frozen shoulder?

A frozen shoulder can be triggered by factors such as prolonged immobility, injury, or underlying health conditions like diabetes. It often develops after a period of limited shoulder movement due to surgery, soft tissue injuries, or a rotator cuff tear. Bands of scar tissue and a decrease in synovial fluid can also contribute to the development of this condition.

What is the fastest way to heal a frozen shoulder?

The fastest way to heal a frozen shoulder involves a combination of regular stretching exercises, physical therapy exercises, and potentially medications or injections to manage pain and inflammation. Consistency and adherence to a treatment plan are crucial. Applying gentle pressure and using an ice pack or warm shower can also aid in pain relief.

Can frozen shoulder recover by itself?

While a frozen shoulder can eventually resolve on its own, the process can take several months to years. Active treatment through stretching and physical therapy can significantly speed up recovery and improve outcomes. Gentle stretching exercises, such as the internal rotation stretch, can help maintain flexibility and reduce stiffness in the shoulder muscles and joint capsule.