Exercises for frozen shoulder

Updated March 23, 2017

Adhesive capsulitis, more commonly referred to as frozen shoulder, affects the movement of the shoulder joint. It occurs when the flexible tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint swells and thickens, reducing the space for the upper arm bone to move. Sufferers experience a painful stiffness in the affected area that can lead to problems with sleeping, driving and dressing. In severe cases it may prevent any movement in the shoulder at all. Treatment may involve a combination of painkillers, surgery or physiotherapy. Inactivity exacerbates the problems associated with frozen shoulder so it’s important to keep the joint mobile with gentle, regular exercises.

Outward Rotation Exercise

Obtain a rubber band measuring around 30 centimetres in diameter. Hold the band at either end so that it is stretched across the front of the body and the forearms are pointed forwards. The elbows should be at 90 degrees and held at the side of the body. Using the affected arm, move the band outwards by around six centimetres and hold this position for five seconds before returning to the starting position. This should be repeated between 10 and 15 times.

Inward Rotation Exercise

Hook the same rubber band over a door handle and hold it with the hand of the affected arm. Keep the elbow near the body and at 90 degrees. Move the hand holding the rubber band about six centimetres inwards and hold the position for five seconds before returning to the start position. Repeat the movement between 10 and 15 times.


The armpit stretch involves lifting the affected arm onto a chest-high surface using the healthy arm. When the affected arm is resting on the surface, slowly bend at the knees so that the angle between the affected arm and the torso is increased. Try to increase the angle with each stretch. The towel stretch requires a towel about one metre in length. This is held at a 45 degree angle across the back using both hands. The upper healthy arm is used to pull the lower affected arm up and across the back.

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About the Author

Justin Schamotta began writing in 2003. His articles have appeared in "New Internationalist," "Bizarre," "Windsurf Magazine," "Cadogan Travel Guides" and "Juno." He was a deputy editor at Corporate Watch and co-editor of "BULB" magazine. Schamotta has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Plymouth University and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from Cardiff University.