FitnessYoga & Stretching

10 Useful Stretches for Frozen Shoulder

Do you ever feel like your neck needs a serious massage, or that you’re holding ridiculous amounts of tension in your shoulders?

Whether you’re suffering from the above descriptions, or have been diagnosed with frozen shoulder, these stretches will help unwind deep tension and restore upper-body mobility.

What Causes Shoulder Stiffness?

Shoulder tension and stiffness can be the result of many different factors. Below are some factors that may cause your shoulders to become stiff:

– Sitting at a desk all day
– Spending lots of time sitting and driving
– Sports injuries
– Sleeping in an awkward position
– Poor posture

It is also the case that your shoulders become stiff and tense from anxiety and stress. A lot of the time, we hold our shoulders up tight, because we are feeling a constant stress response from our external environment (whether that be bad news, heavy traffic, waking up in a bad mood, getting in a fight with a loved one, etc.). Practicing relaxed breathing for this type of shoulder tension is one of the best, most effective remedies.

Frozen Shoulder

You might also be suffering from frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is stiffness, pain and limited range of movement in your shoulder. It can result after an injury or overuse or from a disease like diabetes or stroke. The tissues around the joint stiffen, scar tissue forms, and then shoulder movements become painful and difficult.

Frozen shoulder can last for several months or more (even up to a year) if left untreated. This can make it hard to exercise, sleep normally, or go about day-to-day activities pain-free.

Fortunately, with enough shoulder mobilization exercises and stretches, your shoulders can finally “thaw” and you’ll be on your way to total shoulder recovery. Keep in mind that things take time, however, and that results will not be seen within a day (although for some people, they may).

As with all stretches, don’t force anything, and don’t move too quickly. Listen to your body and slowly go into each stretch. Deep breathing will help largely while trying to get into a stretch, or if you’re wanting to go deeper.

10 Stretches For Frozen Shoulder

Here are 10 useful stretches you can use for frozen shoulder, or if you’re just looking for some shoulder relief.

1. Pendulum Stretch

This exercise encourages movement at the shoulder joint, while maintaining inactivity of the injured or repaired muscles.

1. Stand beside a table with the hand of the unaffected shoulder on the table.
2. Make sure your feet are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and bend at the hips about 75-90 degrees, letting your affected arm hang down toward the floor.
3. Shift your weight side to side, letting your arm swing freely side to side.
4. Shift your weight forward and backward, letting your arm swing freely front to back.
5. Once these movements feel comfortable, move your body so that your arm swings in a circle. Be careful to not use your shoulder muscles to create movement. Keep the circles small.
6. Do this for 30 seconds, and increase the time until you can do it for a solid 3-5 minutes. Repeat 5 times in a day.

2. Intense Floor Shoulder Stretch

A great stretch for people who have tight chests and shoulders.

1. Begin on your stomach, with the tops of your feet on the floor.
2. Open up the arms to your side, in a T position, palms facing down.
3. Take a deep breath in, and when you’re ready, bend your right arm and turn your head so that the left temple is on the mat.
4. Bend the right leg and then press into the right hand to open up the hips, bringing the right foot down to the ground.
5. Hold for 30 seconds, up to a minute, breathing deeply while doing so.
6. Come out of the position, and come back to centre. Open up the arms again, and repeat on the other side.
7. Aim for 2-3 repetitions on each side (or only on the affected shoulder).

3. Cross-Body Reach

This stretches your side and rear deltoids to release tension and increase flexibility in the arms.

1. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart (or sitting up-right in a chair), bring your affected arm across your body at chest-level.
2. Use your opposite hand or forearm to hold the affected arm against the chest.
3. Hold for 15 seconds, and repeat 5-7 times a day.

4. Eagle Arms

This pose helps open the shoulder joints, creating space between the shoulder blades. The rhomboids, lower trapezius, and the teres major muscles are being stretched while in this pose.

1. You can do this pose either standing up or sitting on the heels.
2. Take your right elbow on top of the left, making sure the right elbow is snug into the crook of the left.
3. Wrap the arms around each other, clasping your fingers together or taking your palms together if you can manage.
4. Squeeze the elbows together, and relax the shoulders away from the ears, lifting the elbows up to shoulder height as you gently move the hands away from yourself.
5. Drop the chin slightly toward the chest, and breathe for 5-10 deep breaths.
6. Release and repeat on the other side. This can be done 2-3 times on each arm.

5. Trapezius Release with Belt

For this stretch you will need 2 long belts (preferably wide, and made of fabric). It helps release tight trapezius muscles, which often bear the brunt of stress from emotional reactions throughout the day (fear, anger, anxiety, etc.). Check out the video for the best visual explanation, as seeing it is easier to understand.

1. Using a yoga belt, or two belts strapped together, cross it on your back, parallel to the floor.
2. Cross the straps over your shoulders.
3. Behind you, you are going to cross the straps, and then you are going to pull them forward. This will pull your shoulders back, while lifting your chest simultaneously.
4. You can put the two ends of the belt together through the loop to make it as tight as you want so that your trapezius muscle is no longer contracting, so it can relax.
5. You can use this while you work, or while you clean the house, making sure your shoulders stay in place, and don’t hunch forward.

6. Cow-Face Pose

This stretch helps open up the chest and relieves a stiff back and shoulders.

1. From all fours, cross your right knee over the left, stacking one on top of the other. Sit down between your legs, so that your buttocks is on the floor. You can rest on a block or blanket if your hips are too tight.
2. Inhale, and reach your right arm out to the side, then rotate the arm inward so that the thumb faces the ground. Exhale your arm behind your back, bend the elbow, and work your hand up towards your neck. Roll your right shoulder back and down.
3. Inhale, and reach your left arm forward, palm facing up, and draw your arm towards the sky. Exhale, and bend your elbow. Reach to grasp your finger of your opposite hand. You can use a strap or towel if your fingers do not yet clasp.
4. Hold for 20-30 seconds, and repeat on the opposite side. Do 3 reps for each arm.

7. Armpit Stretch

A great stretch that helps open up the latissimus dorsi muscle, the muscle that lines the armpit.

1. Stand up next to a high shelf or high table. Rest your elbows on the shelf or table.
2. Drop your knees slightly, and shift your hips back without moving your arms to feel a stretch around the armpits of both shoulders.
3. Repeat 8-10 times, bending at the knees a bit deeper every time to increase the stretch in the armpit.

8. Bow Pose

The perfect pose for anyone struggling with really tight shoulders and overly stretched upper back muscles.

1. Lie on your stomach, and bend your knees, bringing them on your hip (or as close as you can get).
2. Grab your feet with your hands (as shown above) and lift the head, chest, and knees on the mat.
3. Breathing in, kick your legs so that your arms naturally go with them, and roll forward onto your belly.
4. Breathing out, go back into the original position. Repeat 5 times.

9. Doorway Stretch

This stretch will help reduce subscapularis trigger points (one of the muscles that comprises the rotator cuff and can cause referral pain in the deltoid muscle and over the scapula).

1. Stand inside a doorway and bend your right arm at a 90 degree angle, and place your forearm against the doorframe.
2. Position the bent elbow at about shoulder height. Alternatively, you can just grab the doorframe with your hand as shown in the picture above.
3. Rotate your chest to the left until you feel a nice stretch in the chest and front shoulder.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat with the opposite arm.

10. Half Dragonfly Pose

This is a gravity-assisted stretch for the muscles of the front of the shoulder.

1. Lay on your stomach and reach one arm across your chest, placing the shoulder on the floor (palm facing up).
2. Inhale, and on your exhale, roll onto your arm that is across your chest. Rest your head down and your opposite arm rests either at your side, or alongside your head.
3. Stay here for 3 minutes and breathe slowly and deeply. Repeat 3 times on each shoulder, or only on the affected shoulder if you’re dealing with frozen shoulder on one side.


illustration of frozen shoulder with text - 10 useful stretches for frozen shoullder to unwind deep tension and restore upper body mobility

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