Improve Frozen Shoulder With These Exercises

Everyday activities can become a challenge when you have a frozen shoulder. Try these physical therapy exercises for frozen shoulders from a UR.Life physiotherapist.

By URLife Team
19 Apr 2024

Imagine waking up one morning, ready to start your day, only to find that you can't lift your arm to brush your teeth or reach for your morning coffee. This is the reality for many people with frozen shoulders, a condition where the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful, limiting movement. Whether it's struggling to put on a jacket or reaching for something on a high shelf, everyday tasks become challenging and sometimes impossible.


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A 2023 study in StatPearl says that adhesive capsulitis, also called frozen shoulder, is a painful shoulder problem that sticks around for more than 3 months. Females are 4 times more often affected than men, while the non-dominant shoulder is more prone to be affected. It happens when the joint capsule of the shoulder gets inflamed and stiff, making it hard to move your arm, especially when turning it outward. Sometimes, the symptoms show up suddenly, and getting better can take a long time, even up to 2 to 3 years. But most people eventually feel better.


Related story: 6 Exercises You Can Do To Ease Shoulder Pain


Symptoms of Frozen Shoulders

When you have a frozen shoulder, your shoulder feels stiff, hurts, and can't move well in any direction. Here are some signs you might have a frozen shoulder:


  • Stiffness that gets worse at the beginning, but gets better over time.
  • Dull, achy pain that gets worse as the condition gets worse, especially when you move your arm.
  • It might take two to nine months for a frozen shoulder to develop. Even though the pain might get better slowly, the stiffness stays, and you still can't move your arm much.


We spoke to Dr. Vinay Aindala, Senior Physiotherapist at UR.Life Studio, Apollo Health City, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad about the frozen shoulders. On the causes of frozen shoulders, he explains, ‘It's likely because of inflammation. Sometimes, it occurs when the shoulder hasn't moved much for a long time due to an injury, surgery, or illness. Other times, the cause is unclear. The good news is that most frozen shoulders can be treated, but it takes time and effort. Usually, it starts with an injury or inflammation of the soft tissues. This inflammation causes pain that gets worse when you move your shoulder’.


Related story: 5 Moves To Ease The Knot In Your Shoulders


5 Frozen Shoulder Exercises

To get the shoulder moving again, it is important to do some specific exercises. Dr. Vinay has provided 5 exercises for frozen shoulders that can be performed even at home. Even though it might take several months to do these exercises regularly, sticking with them usually brings good results. Even if you have arthritis, these exercises can help maintain or even enhance your shoulder's movement and reduce discomfort. But it's important to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program.


1. Codman Exercise

Codman exercises, also known as pendulum exercises, are a gentle and effective way to help relieve pain and improve mobility in a frozen shoulder. These exercises involve using the natural swing of your arm to gently move the shoulder joint without causing strain or discomfort.


Here's how to do it:

  • Stand or sit comfortably, leaning forward slightly and supporting yourself with your unaffected arm on a table or chair for stability.
  • Let your affected arm hang down naturally.
  • Without using any muscles in your shoulder, gently swing your arm back and forth like a pendulum. Start with small movements and gradually increase the range of motion as you feel more comfortable.
  • You can also gently swing your arm in a circular motion, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
  • Perform these exercises for about 5-10 minutes, several times a day.


2. Finger Ladder

  • Stand facing a wall about three-quarters of an arm's length away.
  • Use the fingertips of your affected arm to touch the wall at waist level.
  • Keep your elbow slightly bent and slowly walk your fingers up the wall, like a spider, until your arm is at shoulder level or as high as you comfortably can reach. Make sure your fingers are doing the work, not your shoulder muscles.
  • Slowly lower your arm back down with the help of your good arm if needed, and then repeat the motion.
  • Aim to do this exercise 10 to 20 times a day.


Related story: 5 Moves To Rehabilitate Injured Shoulders


3. Wand Exercise

  • Hold a wand, which can be a broomstick or a long stick, with both hands, and palms facing down.
  • Stand or sit comfortably with your back straight.
  • Start with the wand in front of you at waist level.
  • Slowly raise the wand overhead, keeping your arms straight and shoulder-width apart.
  • Once the wand is overhead, slowly lower it behind your back as far as you comfortably can.
  • Reverse the motion by bringing the wand back overhead and then down to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement for 10-15 repetitions.


4. Towel Exercise

  • Grab a towel that's about three feet long and hold it behind your back with both hands, keeping it horizontal.
  • Use your unaffected arm to gently pull the affected arm upward to stretch it. You should feel a comfortable stretch on your shoulder.
  • If you want to try a more advanced version, drape the towel over your unaffected shoulder.
  • Hold the bottom of the towel with your affected arm and pull it towards your lower back using your unaffected arm.
  • Repeat this stretch 10 to 20 times a day.


Related story: Rehabilitation Therapies At UR.Life To Ease lower Back Pain


5. Armpit Stretch

  • Reach your affected arm behind your back and attempt to touch the opposite shoulder blade.
  • Use your unaffected arm to gently push on the elbow of the affected arm to deepen the stretch.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Perform 2-3 sets on each side.


It's important to perform these exercises with slow, controlled movements and to avoid any jerky or forceful motions that could aggravate your shoulder. If you experience any pain or discomfort while doing exercises for frozen shoulders, stop immediately and consult with your healthcare provider.


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Rehabilitation Programmes Offered At UR.Life

UR Life Studio offers the following programs under its Lifestyle Management and Therapeutic Programs (LMTP) unit:

  • Cardiac Rehabilitation
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation
  • Neuro Rehabilitation
  • Ortho Rehabilitation
  • Paediatric Rehabilitation
  • Geriatric Rehabilitation
  • Obesity Management
  • Diabetes management


The holistic rehabilitation approach involves the medical, physical, and mental aspects of overall health. Telemetry Supervised Rehabilitation is a state-of-the-art technique to provide optimal health care, hydrotherapy, six minutes walk test, hydraulics (circuit training studio), VO2 max testing (equipment under servicing), Myo motion analysis (equipment under servicing), detailed physical assessment, wellbeing counselling, and diet counselling.



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