5 Stretches for a Frozen Shoulder
As we emerge into 2023, many are setting goals to get back to proper health. Finding relief from pain may be at the top of the list for the half of American adults who deal with musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. Of these pain sufferers, an overwhelming cohort experience shoulder pain, which may be caused by a ‘frozen shoulder.’
What is a frozen shoulder?
The characteristics of a freezing or frozen shoulder typically start with pain and a gradual onset of stiffness in the joint. Those with diabetes, those whose shoulder has been immobilized for a period, and women are at higher risk for developing frozen shoulders. Frozen shoulder stretches are a great way to help reduce pain and increase mobility.
Try these five low-impact stretches for relief.
The wall stretch
Stand or sit with your back against a wall, and slowly move your arm away from the wall until you feel tension in your shoulder. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then rest back down to the start position again before repeating once more on each side. How often should I do this stretch? Once per day for two weeks, then twice per day for another two weeks, then three times per day for another two weeks—and so on, until you’re able to stretch without feeling pain or discomfort (or at least without worrying about it).
How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position, with your back straight and your legs on the floor. Hold a towel or strap in each hand, keeping them at chest level with elbows bent 90 degrees. Lean forward while keeping your head back and spine straight (you'll feel the stretch along the side of your torso). Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds before returning to the starting position and repeating on the opposite side of the body until you've completed five reps total for each side of the body (10 total).
Cross chest stretch
The cross chest stretch is a good way to loosen up the muscles in your neck and upper back. If you have a rotator cuff injury and cannot rotate your shoulders fully without pain, do not perform this stretch until you've consulted with a doctor or physical therapist. How to do it: Cross one arm across your chest, making sure that it is not too low on your ribs. Do not lift either shoulder or turn your head to look up at the sky; this will put too much strain on the joint and can cause discomfort or pain. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other side. Repeat this three times per side for best results.
How to do it: Place a towel around your shoulder and grab the ends of the towel with both hands. Pull until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds or until it becomes uncomfortable to hold any longer, then repeat 3 times on each side.
Minimally invasive stretches make a bigger difference than we realize. Many are so simple, they can be done in your sleep! (Not particularly—but close). How to do it: Place a pillow or two under your arm. Lie on your back and raise your arm above your head, keeping it straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat three times.
Biceps gleno-humeral stretch
To stretch your biceps, bring your arm across your body toward the opposite shoulder. Make sure to keep your elbow straight and pointed downward. For example, if you’re stretching the right arm, cross it over toward the left side of your body without bending or rotating it. You may feel some tension at first; this is normal! As soon as you feel that tension release (after about 10 seconds), move on to another stretch.
The Biceps Gleno-humeral Stretch is a very effective way to help relieve pain and restore mobility in patients suffering from frozen shoulder syndrome. It can be done anywhere and does not require any equipment other than two arms (and maybe someone else around for moral support).
When should I stop moving during these stretches?
Often, these exercises test our limits—so it’s probably okay if you experience a touch of discomfort. Feel free to back off if it becomes too much. There is no need to push through and aggravate your joints. Understanding your limits will help you establish your comfortable range.
The frozen shoulder is a common condition that can be treated with stretches and exercises. The five exercises listed above are some of the best for working on flexibility in your shoulder and arm. Give them a go, and remember: consistency is the key to best results.
Need more exercise? Check out these Sword-recommended exercises: