Shoulder Range of Motion Exercises

The exercises illustrated and described in this document should be performed only after instruction by your physical therapist or your doctor’s office.

Pendulum exercise
Bend over at the waist and let the arm hang down. Using your body to initiate movement, swing the arm gently forward and backward and in a circular motion.

Shoulder shrug
Shrug shoulders upward as illustrated.

Shoulder blade pinches
Pinch shoulder blades backward and together, as illustrated.

Isometric internal and external rotation
Stand facing a doorjamb or the corner of a wall. Keep the elbow tight against your side and hold the forearm at a right angle to the arm. For internal rotation, place the palm against the wall with the thumb facing up. For external rotation, place the back of the hand against the wall with the thumb facing up. Pull or push against the wall and hold for 5 seconds

Ball squeeze exercises
Holding a rubber ball or tennis ball, squeeze the ball and hold for 5 seconds

Supine passive arm elevation
Lie on your back. Hold the affected arm at the wrist with the opposite hand. Using the strength of the opposite arm, lift the affected arm upward, as if to bring the arm overhead, slowly lower the arm back to the bed.

Supine Passive Forward Flexion
Lie on your back. Holding a stick in both hands about shoulder width apart, raise the involved arm with the help of the uninvolved arm up and then backward as if to reach overhead. Hold 5 to 10 seconds.

Supine external rotation
Lie on your back. Keep the elbow of the affected arm against your side with the elbow bent at 90 degrees. Using a cane or long stick in the opposite hand, push against the hand of the affected arm so that the affected arm rotates outward. Hold 10 seconds, relax and repeat.

Behind-the-back internal rotation
Sitting in a chair or standing, place the hand of the operated arm behind your back at the waistline. Use your opposite hand, as illustrated, to help the other hand higher toward the shoulder blade. Hold 10 seconds, relax and repeat.

Hand-behind-the-head stretch
Lie on your back. Clasp your hands and place your hands behind your head with the elbows facing forward. Slowly lower the elbows to the side to stretch the shoulder outward. Hold for 10 seconds, and then return to the starting position.

Standing external rotation
Stand in a doorway facing the doorframe or near the edge of a wall. With your hand against the wall or doorframe, keep the affected arm firmly against your side, and the elbow at a right (90 degree) angle. By moving your feet, rotate your body away from the door or wall to produce outward rotation at the shoulder.

Supine cross-chest stretch
Lying on your back, hold the elbow of the operated arm with the opposite hand. Gently stretch the elbow toward the opposite shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds.

Sidelying internal rotation stretch
Lie on your side with the arm positioned so that the arm is at a right angle to the body and the elbow bent at a 90º angle. Keeping the elbow at a right angle, rotate the arm forward as if to touch the thumb to the table. Apply a gentle stretch with the opposite arm. Hold 10 to 15 seconds.

External rotation at 90º abduction stretch
Lie on your back. Support the upper arm, if needed, with towels or a small pillow. Keep arm at 90 degrees to the body and the elbow bent at 90 degrees. Using a stick and the opposite arm, stretch as if to bring the thumb to the corner of the table adjacent to your ear. Hold for 10 seconds, and then return to the starting position.

Corner stretch
Standing facing a corner or open doorway and position the arms as shown with the elbows at shoulder level. The arm should be at a 90-degree angle to the shoulder with a 90 degree angle at the elbow. Try to keep the forearms vertical similar to the position of football goalposts. Move your feet forward, moving your body gently forward toward the corner or doorway until a stretch is felt in the front of the shoulder. Hold 10 seconds.

Wall slide stretch
Stand facing a wall; place the hands of both arms on the wall. Slide the hands and arms upward. As you are able to stretch the hand and arm higher, you should move your body closer to the wall. Hold 10 seconds, lower the arm by pressing the hand into the wall and letting it slide slowly down.

Supine / Seated Forward Elevation (Overhead Elbow Lift)
During this phase, you can stand or sit in a chair. If it is easier, begin lying on your back until you achieve maximal motion, then use the standing or seated position. Assume an upright position with erect posture, looking straight ahead. Place your hands on either thigh with the operated thumb facing up and your elbow straight. In the beginning, this stretch is not performed solely with the operated arm, but uses the uninjured hand for assistance going up and coming down. As you become stronger, you can raise and lower your arm without assistance. The operated arm should be lifted as high as possible, or to your endpoint of pain. Try to raise the arm by hinging at the shoulder as opposed to raising the arm with the shoulder blade.

Standing forward flexion
Stand facing a mirror with the hands rotated so that the thumbs face forward. Raise the arm upward keeping the elbow straight. Try to raise the arm by hinging at the shoulder as opposed to raising the arm with the shoulder blade. Do 10 repetitions to 90 degrees. If you can do this without hiking the shoulder blade, do 10 repetitions fully overhead.