Exercises For Your Sore Shoulder

Shoulder pain is the second most common type of orthopedic pain in patients seen by family physicians (knee pain is the most common). Most shoulder problems are attributable to overuse and/or trauma. Stiff and painful shoulder may begin with or without any significant injury. Prolonged immobilization from either protracted use of a sling or disuse because of pain in the arm may lead to, or add to, sore shoulder. Shoulder motion is sometimes limited in one or more directions, with pain occurring at the limits of motion.

This information provides a general overview on exercises for the painful shoulder and may not apply to everyone. Diagnosis of any medical condition must be performed by a physician. Talk to your family physician, orthopedic specialist or occupational therapist to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

These stretching/strengthening exercises for your shoulder should be done
only if they do not cause pain.

Try to do these exercises twice a day
or as your physician or occupational therapist recommends.

Start off with Stretching Exercises

Warm-up with Pendulums

While standing, lean over so that you're directly facing the floor. Let your sore arm dangle straight down. Draw circles in the air with your dangling arm. Start with small circles and then draw bigger ones for about one minute.

Across the Chest

While standing or sitting, use the arm that isn't sore to hold the bent elbow of the arm on the side that's sore. Pull the arm that is sore gently across your chest until you feel a good stretch of the muscles in your shoulder. If pain occurs, don't pull your arm so far across your chest. Hold the stretch position for 10 seconds and release the arm. Repeat this stretching exercise three times.

Climb the Wall

Stand with your side next to a wall and have your fingertips touching the wall. Now slowly "walk" your fingers up the wall until you feel a good stretch of your shoulder muscles, but not pain. Once your armpit is as close to the wall as is comfortable, hold the position for 10 seconds. Repeat this stretching exercise three times.

Towel Pulls

While standing, hold a towel in the hand of your sore arm and then toss the towel over your sore shoulder (don't let go of the towel). Reach behind your back with your other hand and grab the other end of the towel. With each hand holding each end of the towel, pull the towel up as far as you can comfortably. Hold your arms in this position for 10 seconds. Then pull the towel down as far as you can and hold your arms in this position for 10 seconds. Repeat this stretching exercise three times. Then put the towel over the other shoulder, switch the position of your hands and do the same stretches.

Strengthening Exercises with Weights

If you don't have hand weights, you can use a 15 or 16 ounce can of soup instead. If you have weights, start out with a low weight and increase the weight after you become comfortable. Don't use more than five pounds of weight.

Lie on your back with your right arm next to your side. With a weight in your right hand, bend your arm so that your elbow forms a 90 angle. Lower your forearm to the side, keeping your elbow close to your side.

Lie on your right side with your left arm at your side. With a weight in your left hand and your forearm across your abdomen, raise your forearm. Be sure to keep your elbow near your side.

Sit upright and hold both arms out beside your body. Hold your arms a little lower than shoulder level. With weights in both hands, raise your arms until your hands are at shoulder level. Keep your thumbs pointed down.

Strengthening Exercises with an Exercise Band

For exercises with an exercise band, the further you stand from the door, the more resistance the band gives. Start close to the door and move back until you find a comfortable resistance. For all of these exercises, start by doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions and work your way up to 3 sets of 20.

Stand next to a closed door with a doorknob. Loop the exercise band around the doorknob. With your hand that is on the side of your body farthest from the door, grab the loop of the exercise band and pull the band across your abdomen and out to the far side. Keep your elbow bent at 90 throughout the entire motion.

Stand next to a closed door with a doorknob. Loop the exercise band around the doorknob. With your hand that is closest to the door, bend your arm at a 90 angle and grab the loop of the band. Pull the band across your abdomen.

Stand with your feet slightly apart and the exercise band under your foot. With your arm straight and your thumb pointed down, grab the loop and pull upward to shoulder level. Keep your thumb pointed down during the entire exercise.


Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
American statesman, scientist, and philosopher

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