6 Best Physical Therapy Exercises For Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is something which can adversely affect your lifestyle, from your humped posture to difficulty in doing your daily chores.

In this article, we will share some physical therapy exercises1 for shoulder pain with you because it has been experienced by many in recent times due to the unhealthy lifestyle prevalent today.

Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Pain Relief

These exercises will surely help you with pain and increase your mobility.

Shoulder pain happens when your shoulder becomes stiff, limiting your motion while also
causing some discomfort. Shoulder pain has become very common, affecting up to 18-26% of adults.

Major Causes of Shoulder Pain

There are many causes of shoulder pain, the most common among them can be arthritis or impingement, some other reasons are:

1. Bicep Tendonitis

These tendons attach muscles of the bicep of the upper arm to the shoulder front. And when these tendons become pinched because of the shoulder blade bone structure or ligaments of the shoulder blade or collarbone, it can cause some pain.

Reasons For Shoulder pain

2. Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

The group of four muscles supporting shoulders is called the rotator cuff, and the tendons get pinched which may cause inflammation that ultimately leads to pain.

3. Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is very common among adults. The shoulder becomes very stiff and loses motion due to lack of use and fluids present, which help in movement.

It may also happen when a band of tissues grows in the joint region, restricting the motion.

What is Causing Your Shoulder Pain? Tests You Can Do Yourself.

But fortunately, many physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain can quickly relieve tightness and pain in the shoulders if practiced carefully and regularly.

But before learning about these physical therapy exercises2 for shoulder pain, it is significant that you know some tips that can immensely help you.

  • You should try making time to do these exercises at least 4 to 6 times per week to
    feel some results.
  • Bring awareness to your shoulder area and observe where tightness is present. Try to
    relax that area by releasing any tension present.
  • Start with 10 minutes every day and gradually increase the time of your physical therapy
    exercises for shoulder pain.
  • Always start with a warm-up that may include one minute of stretching, and always cool
    down with stretching. This will increase efficiency and reduce fatigue.
  • Start with stretching, only till the point you can and are comfortable with. You will increase flexibility over time. But don’t over-exert yourself and push beyond limits. These physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain can cause more pain than curing it if done so.
  • Don’t ignore pain whenever you feel it, and contact your physician. Also, if you are not
    sure about the procedure, seek professional guidance.
  • Also, keep in mind if shoulder pain remains for more than two to three weeks, then it is
    better to get some medical advice or see a physical therapist.

Physical Therapy Stretches And Exercises

Karolina Grabowska

Now without any further wait, let’s see some of the physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain.

  1. Pendulum

The pendulum stretch is one of the easiest and most effective warm-up physical therapy exercises for
shoulder pain. You need to lean over a table or chair with the support of one arm and let the affected arm hang down in front of your body.

Now form small circles with the suspended arm both clockwise and anticlockwise, 10 times each. Gradually increase the size of the circle formed but only till the point it’s comfortable.

And when your symptom starts to improve, try carrying a light object in the suspended arm and continue making circles.

Do this exercise two-three times per day whenever you feel like it, and you will see some increased flexibility.

2. Cross-Body Stretch

As the name suggests, cross-body stretch is stretching your arm across your chest. To begin with, bring your injured arm across your chest; now, support your arm with the other hand. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds till you feel a slight stretch.

Repeat this with the other arm and do it 4 to 5 times with both hands. Like most shoulder
exercises this physical therapy exercise for shoulder pain will increase your flexibility and movement of your shoulder joint.

From this exercise, you will feel stretched on the back of your shoulder. Always keep in mind to take a break whenever you feel pain in your arms or shoulders.

3. Neck Release

Among other physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain, neck release is relatively easy, and you can do it any time. One needs to be careful while doing it and not make any sudden movements as the neck is a very delicate part of the body.

The neck is connected to our shoulders, so this stretch loosens tension in the neck and shoulder area. You can do it anytime, anywhere, while sitting or standing in a comfortable position and back straight.

Neck Release
Karolina Grabowska

Lower your chin in the direction of your chest as if you want to touch it. While doing so, you will feel a stretch towards the back of your neck. Try to tilt your head towards the left when you have done that as if trying to see your left armpit. This will produce a stretch in your right shoulder.

Now hold this position for a minute or till the time you can. Perform the same thing on the other side by stretching towards the right, and you will feel pressure in your left shoulder. Do this practice four to five times, and you will start to see some results.

5. Chest Expansion

Unlike other physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain, you will need the help of extra equipment in this one, but it can be easily found in your house. You need either a strap, exercise band or a towel.

Now to perform this exercise, stand on your feet with your back straight. Hold the towel or the strap with your right and left hands behind the back. Now lift your hands upwards, this will broaden your chest, and your shoulder blade will move towards one another, forming a stretch.

To complete the stretch, lift your chin upwards to look at the ceiling. Hold this position till the time you can, or at least for 30 seconds. For better results, repeat it three to five times. To deepen this stretch, one must hold your hand as close as possible on the towel or the strap.

These types of physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain increase the flexibility and motion of your shoulders.

6. Downward Dog

Some yoga poses can also come under physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain, one of
which is the popular downward dog pose. It strengthens the muscles of our back and shoulder.

To start this strengthening exercise, go in a plank position. Then press your hands to lift your hips towards the ceiling. Keep your spine straight and look at your feet.

This will flex your shoulders. Maintain this position as long as you can to achieve greater benefits and reduce pain in your shoulder complex.

Shoulder Pain Relief Stretches – 5 Minute Real Time Routine

Some Other Treatments

While there are many other physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain, there are some
treatments too that can help elevate pain.

Other Therapy
Heike Frohnhoff

1. Cold therapy

Also known as cryotherapy, it is a helpful treatment. There is this RICE model – Rest, Ice,
Compression, Elevation which is generally the first thing done after a sports injury. Based on this, icing is encouraged to reduce inflammation, which would help relieve pain to a greater level.

But remember, ice therapy will only be helpful for the first 72 hours of gaining an injury. It reduces blood flow to the injured area, thus diminishing the pain significantly.

2. Heat therapy

When you are done with ice therapy and pain is still present, you can go for heat therapy, but only when 72 hours have passed. As you may know, heat is famous for soothing and relaxing the muscles. That is why it will act as an effective pain killer.

3. Stretching

All the above-mentioned physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain involve stretching or
stretching for doing the said exercise. It is the reason it is an effective treatment for shoulder pain.

Through stretching, your muscles are pushed to their highest point, giving you a range of motion. Many stretches from easy to moderate involve various body parts like the shoulder, spine, and neck.

4. Change Your Work Lifestyle

Today’s age has forced people to work from behind a desk all day long, which is why many health problems. The most common of which is a pain in parts of the body like knees and shoulders.

These joints are accustomed to movements, and when they are made to remain in the same
position for a very long time, they become stiff. This causes pain and inflammation. So changing some habits like going for a walk after every few hours or doing some little exercise between work can help.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the main cause of shoulder pain?

Sometimes rotator cuff tendons get caught under the shoulder’s bony area, shoulder pain is most frequently the result. The tendons swell up or incur damage, hence then therapy is crucial.

2. How much time does shoulder pain take to go away?

Mild shoulder pain may require 4-6 weeks to completely disappear.

3. What is the best medicine for shoulder pain?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, or NSAIDs, help ease shoulder pain. Doctors frequently advise the NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen.


These were some of the physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain, along with other treatments.

If you practice them regularly, then there are chances that they will help with your pain. If the pain lasts for more than two weeks, then it is advised to see a specialist.

Stay safe and healthy!

Read more from us here.

  1. Nordin, Margareta, and Marco Campello. “Physical therapy: Exercises and the modalities: When, what and why?.” Neurologic clinics 17.1 (1999): 75-89. ↩︎
  2. Cup, Edith H., et al. “Exercise therapy and other types of physical therapy for patients with neuromuscular diseases: a systematic review.” Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 88.11 (2007): 1452-1464. ↩︎

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Mimansha Jain
  1. I find it convenient that physical therapy can help treat body and shoulder pain after a long day at work. I like how you explained that this can also improve your body’s overall flexibility. I think my uncle can use this for his back pain by visiting a physical therapist in the future.

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