14 Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Pain and Rehab (Printable PDF) (2023)

You may not know it, but you use your shoulders every day to lift, reach, pull, push, carry, and push. Almost everyone will experience some form of shoulder pain and sore muscles at some point in their lives - even if you don't exercise.

Unfortunately, in some cases it can become a chronic problem. Chronic pain makes everyday activities difficult, such as picking up a child or pet, carrying groceries, reaching for something, combing your hair, or getting dressed. If you suffer from shoulder pain for more than a few days,consider making an appointmentwith a medical professional.

If your doctor gives you the green light, you can tackle this list of shoulder pain rehab exercises:

9 stretching exercises for shoulder rehab

Download free printable PDF

Exercises for shoulder pain hide

1 arm-over-chest stretch

2 neck stretches

(Video) Physical Therapist FIXES His Shoulder Pain - So Can You!

3 shoulder roll

5 Interne Bandrotation

6 lateral raises

7 barrel hug

8 upright rows

9 External rotation of the upper body

10 Interne Torsorotation

(Video) No 1 Shoulder Impingement Exercises (98% Success Rate!) | FREE Exercise Worksheet!

11 Shoulder I-Y-Ts

12 shoulder Y's and T's

13 Shoulder U's

14 rows of diamonds

Using physical therapy to relieve shoulder pain

Often the first step to successShoulder Pain Reliefis to understand your body and push yourself to exercise. Your shoulder isn't just a simple joint, it's a ball and socket joint held together by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All parts of the shoulder work together to provide rotation and stability so you can carry out your daily activities with ease.

14 Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Pain and Rehab (Printable PDF) (1)

You may experience discomfort or severe pain if only one component is injured. In some cases, the pain in your shoulder is due to another body region working in tandem with the shoulder. If you have mild shoulder tendinitis, physical therapy exercises are a fantastic treatment.

Treating shoulder pain can involve some shoulder exercises that are complex and are best done with the help of onephysiotherapist,especially after shoulder injuries. Others, however, are simple exercises you can do at home that can ease the pain and prevent future discomfort. However, treating shoulder pain often takes timeLearning how to get rid of shoulder pain through exercise therapy is very easy.

Shoulder warm-up exercises

Here's a list of warm-up exercises to help loosen up your scapula muscles and joints before a workout. It is imperative that you warm up thoroughly to get your blood flowing and help relieve pain.

Arm-over-chest stretch

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You want to warm up the muscles and joints, so the arm-over-chest stretch is a great way to loosen up your upper arm. When performing the exercise, be sure to lower your shoulders if you feel pain.

(Video) Rotator Cuff Related Shoulder Pain Rehab & Exercises - Tears, Tendinitis, Impingement

  1. Let your right arm hang near your waist.
  2. With your left hand, grab your right elbow and pull your right arm across your chest to your left arm. Ideally, you should be able to pull your arms across your chest without feeling uncomfortable.
  3. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds and feel a stretch in your shoulder and upper arm.
  4. Repeat with your other arm. Do both sides three to five times.

neck stretches

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The neck often plays a role in shoulder pain, so simple neck stretches are ideal. This exercise can also be used as a warm-up exercise.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Let your arms hang loosely at your sides.
  3. look straight
  4. Tilt your head to the right and try to touch your ear on your shoulder.
  5. You will feel the stretch moving down your left shoulder and neck.
  6. hold 10 seconds
  7. Repeat the exercise on the back shoulder.
  8. Do three repetitions for each side.

Other Resources:

8 Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Exercises for Pain Relief

Simple exercises for shoulder pain

Below is a wide range of exercises that research has shown help with shoulder pain. Each is easy to perform, so you don't have to jump through any hoops to begin the steps. Try this workout routine for shoulder pain!

shoulder roll

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Another basic exercise that will help loosen you up is the shoulder roll. Many do this as a warm-up exercise for the shoulder blades. It's easy to implement. These shoulder movements help with circular movements.

  1. Stand with your back straight and feet apart.
  2. Let your arms dangle at your sides
  3. Take a deep breath and shrug your shoulders to rotate slowly.
  4. Roll your shoulders back while elevated so that you squeeze your scapula muscles.
  5. Exhale and lower your shoulders.
  6. Roll your shoulders forward and you'll feel a stretch along the back of your shoulder blades.
  7. Repeat 10 times

Externe Bandrotation

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External Band Rotations is a good exercise for strengthening the shoulder with external rotation. You will need a resistance or exercise band to perform the exercise.

  1. Attach a resistance band to an object at elbow height
  2. Grasp the exercise band with an overhand grip. Stand tall and bring yourselbowup so that the top of your arm is in line with your shoulder.
  3. Keep your arm bent at 90 degrees. Your forearm should be parallel to the floor.
  4. Rotate your hand and forearm outward, away from your body while keeping your elbow at your side.
  5. Return the movement back to the starting position. Your shoulder joint will benefit from this exercise.
  6. Do five to ten reps.

Interne Bandrotation

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Internal ligament rotation is a common internal rotation exercise performed by sports physiotherapists for people with shoulder problems. You can also do it at home. This exercise can be difficult if you have an injured arm, but as you make an effort it will get easier each time.

  1. Use a door to anchor the elastic at waist height.
  2. Hold the handle with your left hand.
  3. Stand three to four feet away from the door.
  4. Keep your head up and tighten your abs.
  5. Align your active arm so that it's parallel to the floor and at a 45-degree angle away from your torso.
  6. Rotate your arm inward against the elastic.
  7. Touch your torso with your hand.
  8. Return your hand to its original starting position.
  9. Perform 5 reps on each arm.

lateral raises

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You need a pair of dumbbells to do lateral raises. This is a popular exercise to build shoulder muscles. Ideally, you should use very light weights, especially if you have a shoulder injury.

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing
  2. Keep your back perfectly straight and tighten your abdominal muscles.
  3. Using controlled motion, slowly raise the dumbbells to the side so your arms are parallel to the floor. Your elbow should be slightly bent.
  4. Back to the starting position.
  5. Perform 10 to 12 reps.

barrel hug

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You don't need a barrel to complete the Barrel Hug track. You work with an imaginary barrel.

(Video) Best Exercises For Shoulder Pain Using A Theraband

  1. Sit in a chair
  2. Keep your back straight
  3. Raise your arms to shoulder height.
  4. Bend your elbows so your fingers meet (like hugging a barrel).
  5. Twist your body from side to side
  6. Perform the twist with a slight bend on each side to increase range of motion and work your lateral muscles.

Standing upright

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Standing rows are commonly performed by strength coaches for shoulder exercises. However, it is also an excellent exercise for pain relief. You need onedumbbellor replace this exercise with two hand weights.

  1. Stand upright
  2. Grab a barbell or weight with an overhand grip.
  3. Keep your feet hip-width apart.
  4. Pull your shoulders back while arching your lower back.
  5. Raise the barbell so it is directly under your chin
  6. Make sure your elbows are higher than your hands. If not, pull your elbow up.
  7. Lower the bar back and repeat the process
  8. Do 10 repetitions

external rotation of the upper body

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The External Torso Rotation is a classic twist exercise. You can do it without undue discomfort if you suffer from neck pain.

  1. Sit in a chair.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  3. Exhale while twisting your torso to one side.
  4. Keep your hips forward.
  5. Rotate your torso, shoulders and head as a unit.
  6. Pause, then return to your original forward-facing position.
  7. Switch the twisted sides.

Interne Torsorotation

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With internal core rotation, you will use TRX grips to target deeper muscles in your core and shoulder. There are also torso rotation machines available at gyms or that a physical therapist might use as part of therapy. Any time you use TRX, you want to make sure each foot is stable.

  1. Hold onto the attached TRX with both hands and lean your body back with your legs slightly apart.
  2. Use the inner torso of your body to twist sideways and then back to your original position. Your hands will be at the side.
  3. Adjust the intensity by taking a step forward or backward.
  4. Perform 10 repetitions on each side.

Shoulder I-Y-Ts

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Shoulder I-Y-T refers to the positions of your body during exercise. You will be lying on the floor for this exercise, so a mat will come in handy.

  1. Lie on your stomach in a prone position.
  2. Stretch out your arms and legs. Your palms should be flat on the mat with your toes pointing out.
  3. Tighten your abdominal muscles
  4. Pull your shoulders back and down. You will try to hold this position throughout the exercise.
  5. Exhale and lift your arms off the floor. You must maintain the letter I formation for 5 to 10 seconds. Do two to four reps.
  6. Exhale and lift your arms off the floor to form a Y position. Your palms will be inward.
  7. Use your shoulders to do the Y raise of your arms. Hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds.
  8. Do two to four reps.
  9. Exhale and move your arms into a "T" position. Again, use your shoulders to raise your arms. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Do two to four reps.

Shoulder Y and Ts

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You will stand in an upright position and use dumbbells. Only use light dumbbells.

  1. Lean slightly forward.
  2. Bring your arms outward, straighten your elbows and hold the dumbbells.
  3. Slowly lower your arms.
  4. Repeat five times
  5. Position your arms so your palms are facing out and your thumbs are pointing toward the ceiling.
  6. Raise your elbows up to shoulder height.
  7. Slowly deeper.
  8. Repeat five times.

shoulder U's

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The reverse shoulder stretch is like a U formation. The exercise is relatively easy and requires no equipment. This will help stretch your posterior deltoid, the muscle at the back of your shoulders.

  1. stand up straight
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your back at the top of your butt to form a U.
  3. Keep your back straight with your shoulder blade muscles together.
  4. Keep your arm bones straight on each arm.
  5. Push your arms away from your buttocks and down
  6. hold for 30 seconds.
  7. Do one repetition of five.

Diamond shaped rows

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Your rhomboids help you maintain your posture. A rhomboid row can be helpful for your shoulder joints and relieve shoulder pain. For this exercise you will need a pair of dumbbells and an incline bench.

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells in each of your hands.
  2. Stand facing the incline bench seat.
  3. Spread the seat and lean your torso forward against the bench.
  4. Bend your knees so your feet slide backwards.
  5. Bend both ankles and dig your toes into the ground to provide support. Your arms should be hanging down.
  6. Exhale and bend your elbows so you lift the weights up toward your chest.
  7. When you reach the top of the lift, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  8. Hold for three seconds and then lower the weights
  9. Perform 10 to 12 reps.

Shoulder Surgery and Rehabilitation

If you suffer from a rotator cuff tear, you likely need surgery. A rotator cuff injury is painful and requires rehab. Other shoulder conditions may also require surgery to fix. Following the procedure for a rotator cuff tendon injury, you will receive physical therapy at a trained facility and shoulder stretches at home to help you overcome functional limitations.

(Video) Single BEST Strengthening Exercise for Shoulder Pain

Exercise is a great way to free a frozen shoulder and relieve discomfort for those with shoulder pain. You might be tempted to turn to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, but stretching is often an effective way to deal with problems. Active rest and ice are also effective home treatments.

It doesn't matter if you're a weekend warrior or an activeathlete, a stay-at-home mom, or you work behind a desk, no one wants to suffer from shoulder discomfort.I hope this list of shoulder therapy exercises helps you find relief.

Check out our full list of physical therapy exercises.


What is the best exercise for painful shoulder? ›

Stand facing a wall with your arms at right angles out in front. Your thumb should be facing away from the wall and your forearms should be aligned with the wall. Keep your shoulder blades back and gently squeeze together the muscles in this area, then slowly raise both arms upwards.

How can I rehab my shoulder at home? ›

Step-by-step directions
  1. Lean forward and place one hand on a counter or table for support. Let your other arm hang freely at your side.
  2. Gently swing your arm forward and back. Repeat the exercise moving your arm side-to-side, and repeat again in a circular motion.
  3. Repeat the entire sequence with the other arm.

What exercises should I avoid with shoulder pain? ›

People with shoulder injuries should initially refrain from exercises that encourage any movement or movement overhead. Forget about activities like throwing a ball or specific weight training at the gym like overhead presses and pull-ups.

What are three treatment options for shoulder pain? ›

Your provider may recommend treatment for shoulder pain, including:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Injection of an anti-inflammatory medicine called corticosteroid.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Surgery if all other treatments do not work.

Is there a pressure point to relieve shoulder pain? ›

On the outer side of the forearm, the point is 3 finger-widths below the elbow crease. Directions: Using thumb or fingers, place firm and deep pressure on the point. Massage and stimulate the area, using small circular motion.

How do I get rid of shoulder pain ASAP? ›

Easy remedies at home
  1. Anti-inflammatory medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) help to relieve pain and lower inflammation. ...
  2. Cold compress. Cold compresses can help reduce swelling in the shoulder. ...
  3. Compression. ...
  4. Heat therapy. ...
  5. Muscle relaxants. ...
  6. Pain medication. ...
  7. Rest and activity modification.
Sep 4, 2018

What are 2 warning signs of a rotator cuff tear? ›

  • Be described as a dull ache deep in the shoulder.
  • Disturb sleep.
  • Make it difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back.
  • Be accompanied by arm weakness.
May 18, 2022

How many times a day should I do shoulder rehab exercises? ›

After your recovery, these exercises can be continued as a maintenance program for lifelong protection and health of your shoulders. Performing the exercises two to three days a week will maintain strength and range of motion in your shoulders.

Can a shoulder repair itself? ›

In most cases, a rotator cuff tear will not heal on its own. If your pain and other symptoms persist despite conservative treatment such as steroid injections and physical therapy, it's time to speak with a shoulder specialist. Surgical repair is often necessary to restore shoulder function and relieve pain.

How long does it take to rehab a shoulder? ›

Typically, it takes 3-4 months to heal from and participating in post-operative physical therapy will be very beneficial for you to regain strength and use of your shoulder. Even if you have to have surgery, physical therapy before surgery has been shown to help improve outcomes and recovery after.

How should I sleep to avoid shoulder pain? ›

Best Ways to Sleep With Shoulder Pain
  1. Avoid sleeping on one side. Instead, try lying on your back to help relieve pressure on the affected shoulder.
  2. Use specialized pillows. ...
  3. Sleep on your stomach. ...
  4. Sleep with your arms at your side. ...
  5. Change sides.
Sep 8, 2022

Why can't you put Voltaren on your shoulder? ›

It's a potent medication that is very effective for many people and is often used for arthritis pain. For superficial joints – like hands, wrists and even knees – it can be very effective. However, the joints of the cervical spine in the neck, and most of the shoulder joint, are deeper than the Voltaren can penetrate.

What exercises aggravate rotator cuff? ›

Exercises to avoid with an injured rotator cuff
  • Deadlifts. “These heavy weights are basically pulling your arm out of your socket,” says Kinsey. ...
  • Shrugs. Another example of weight pulling down on your shoulder.
  • Squatting. Resting the bar across your shoulders and your arm positioning stresses the rotator cuff.
Jan 10, 2022

What are red flags for shoulder pain? ›

Red flags include: Trauma, pain and weakness, or sudden loss of ability to actively raise the arm (with or without trauma): suspect acute rotator cuff tear. Any shoulder mass or swelling: suspect malignancy. Red skin, painful joint, fever, or the person is systemically unwell: suspect septic arthritis.

What is the most painful shoulder condition? ›

Frozen shoulder is one of the most painful shoulder conditions due to its persistence, long recovery and ever-growing pain. In early stages of development, pain is at its height, but slowly minimizes through each of its three phases.

What is the main cause of shoulder pain? ›

The most common cause of shoulder pain is when rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or trapped in your shoulder. This is called rotator cuff tendinitis, or irritation of these tendons and inflammation of the bursa, small slippery fluid filled sacs that the tendons glide over.

Where do you rub your shoulder for pain? ›

Circular Friction: Apply the circular friction method to the area between the spine and the shoulder blade. Gliding Stroke: Place both thumbs on the area between the spine and shoulder blade and glide them down the muscle while applying pressure, following the pathway of the shoulder blade.

Should you massage shoulder pain? ›

Massage and stretching are extremely beneficial for treating frozen shoulder pain. Massage helps to relieve tension and tightness so your muscles can relax. This helps to restore mobility and improve function. It also may help improve blood flow to the affected area and reduce inflammation.

What medication can I take for shoulder pain? ›

There are many over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers that can help relieve mild and temporary shoulder pain. These include ibuprofen (such as Advil), acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), naproxen (such as Aleve), and other nonprescription pain medications.

What does it mean if my shoulder hurts when I lift my arm? ›

Shoulder impingement is a very common cause of shoulder pain, where a tendon (band of tissue) inside your shoulder rubs or catches on nearby tissue and bone as you lift your arm. It affects the rotator cuff tendon, which is the rubbery tissue that connects the muscles around your shoulder joint to the top of your arm.

Can a chiropractor help shoulder pain? ›

The answer is yes. A doctor of chiropractic is a great person to turn to for all of your shoulder-related pain. They are also primary care providers, so you don't need a referral to make an appointment for your shoulder.

What is the best test for rotator cuff tear? ›

A doctor might request one of several imaging tests to diagnosis your torn rotator's cuff such as an x-ray, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging(MRI).

Where is the pain located with a torn rotator cuff? ›

Typically, you will feel pain in the front of your shoulder that radiates down the side of your arm. It may be present with overhead activities such as lifting or reaching (e.g., serving in tennis, painting a ceiling). You may feel pain when you try to sleep on the affected side.

How can you tell the difference between a rotator cuff tear and tendonitis? ›

Tendonitis pain and chronic rotator cuff tendon pain can be gradual and can worsen overtime with continued use of the shoulder joint. In contrast, an acute rotator cuff tear will typically present with sharp, immediate pain and weakness in the shoulder joint.

What is the best anti-inflammatory for shoulder pain? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can relieve shoulder pain by reducing inflammation in the shoulder joint. Ibuprofen and naproxen are two NSAIDs doctors commonly recommend.

Why does my shoulder hurt for years? ›

The most common causes for chronic shoulder pain are: Rotator cuff injuries. Acromioclavicular arthritis. Glenohumeral arthritis.

What causes shoulder pain for years? ›

Common conditions that can result in chronic shoulder pain include rotator cuff disorders, adhesive capsulitis, shoulder instability, and shoulder arthritis. Rotator cuff disorders include tendinopathy, partial tears, and complete tears.

What are 3 exercises you can do to work the shoulder muscles? ›

Best Shoulder Exercises
  • Overhead Press. Why It's Great: All-in-one exercise for building strong shoulders. ...
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press. Why It's Great: Fantastic for training strength and working with greater ranges of motion. ...
  • Landmine Press. ...
  • Arnold Press. ...
  • Push Press. ...
  • Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press. ...
  • Banded/Cable Delt Raises.
May 15, 2020

What exercises are good for rotator cuff pain? ›

Here are some exercises that aid in the rehabilitation of a rotator cuff injury:
  • Doorway Stretch. All you need is a sturdy door frame and yourself for this one. ...
  • High to Low Rows. ...
  • Reverse Flys. ...
  • Lawn Mower Pull. ...
  • Overhead Lifts. ...
  • Beyond the Neck Pulldown. ...
  • Upright Rows. ...
  • Bench Dips.
Feb 8, 2022

What is the only exercise you need for shoulders? ›

1) Standing Or Seated Dumbbell Press

One of the best dumbbell shoulder exercises is the shoulder press. The shoulder press can be done standing or seated. Both variations will effectively target the front delt. Dumbbell shoulder presses will also activate the middle and rear delt.

What are the 4 main exercises? ›

Research has shown that it's important to get all four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Each one has different benefits.

What exercises workout all parts of the shoulder? ›

5 Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises to Target All Shoulder Muscles
  • Dumbbel Press – Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises.
  • Dumbbel Bent-Over Rows.
  • Dumbbel Incline Row – Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises.
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise.
  • Half-Kneeling Dumbbell Press with Band Row.
Sep 10, 2019

What are the worst exercises for rotator cuff? ›

Exercises to avoid with an injured rotator cuff
  • Deadlifts. “These heavy weights are basically pulling your arm out of your socket,” says Kinsey. ...
  • Shrugs. Another example of weight pulling down on your shoulder.
  • Squatting. Resting the bar across your shoulders and your arm positioning stresses the rotator cuff.
Jan 10, 2022

What aggravates a rotator cuff? ›

The symptoms are usually aggravated by raising the arms overhead or in activities that require reaching behind the body, such as retrieving an object from the back seat of a car. Furthermore, reaching behind the back to fasten underclothing or to pass a belt may aggravate the arm and shoulder pain.

What not to do with rotator cuff injury? ›

The pain from a minor rotator cuff injury often diminishes on its own, with proper care. Stop doing what caused the pain and try to avoid painful movements. Limit heavy lifting or overhead activity until the shoulder pain subsides. Icing the shoulder may help it feel better.


1. SLAP Tear Stretches & Exercises for Shoulder - Ask Doctor Jo
2. 7 Best Frozen Shoulder Exercises & Stretches - Ask Doctor Jo
3. Absolute Best Shoulder Impingement Exercises (Self-Treatments)
(Bob & Brad)
4. Exercises for shoulder pain, Impingement, Bursitis, Rotator Cuff Disease by Dr Furlan MD PhD
(Dr. Andrea Furlan)
5. 5 Resistance Band Exercises for Shoulder Pain
(Onnit Academy)
6. The Throwers 10
(Madden Physical Therapy)


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