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  • Writer's pictureMiracle Rehab Clinic

Top 4 Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

Almost a quarter of American adults experience shoulder pain constantly. It's caused by various disorders: bad posture, lack of movement or too much physical strain.

Unfortunately, untreated shoulder pain can then lead to neck pain, difficulty breathing and general discomfort that hinders everyday life.

Shoulder physical therapy and physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain are the best ways to address and overcome the issue.

By strengthening the upper body, chest, arms, core, and loosening tight muscles, improving muscle tone and range of motion, you can get incredible results.

You should consult with your physical therapist about the best ways to treat your shoulder pain and create an individual exercise plan. Check out the most important questions to ask your physical therapist here.

Until then, you can dedicate 15-30 minutes daily and do some simple yet effective exercises at home.

Here are the top 4 physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

There are a few common conditions that cause shoulder pain and shoulder physical therapy. Before you go through check out the different kinds of physical therapy here.

Let's explore each one of the causes for shoulder pain closer.


According to Web MD, Bursitis is a painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs — called bursae — that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. Bursitis occurs when bursae become inflamed.

Bursitis generally occurs near the most active joints that perform repetitive motion. It can affect elbows, hips, knees and very commonly shoulders.

Physiotherapy for shoulder pain is the main course of action together with resting and avoiding additional trauma. Usually, the pain goes away in a few weeks.

Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder is a condition that affects your shoulder joint. It usually involves pain and stiffness that develops gradually.

With frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule — the tissue surrounding the joint — becomes so thick and tight that it's hard to move. It leads to forming scar tissue and decreasing quantities of synovial fluid that lubricates the joint.

The most common symptoms addressed during physiotherapy treatment for shoulder pain are stiffness, dull and achy pain and general discomfort.

Biceps’ Tendonitis

Biceps’ tendonitis is another common cause of shoulder pain and it occurs because of inflammation of the tendon tissue, swelling and thickening of the tendon sheath.

Besides pain, this leads to changes in the shoulder joint that cause popping or snapping.

It can also become too painful to lift items or play sports that require overhand motions. The pain generally affects the shoulder and the length of the upper arm.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

The last common cause for shoulder pain and shoulder physical therapy is rotator cuff tendonitis. The condition affects the tendons and muscles that help move the shoulder joint — the tendons get inflamed or irritated.

General causes for rotator cuff tendonitis are overworking the shoulder joint during rigorous exercise, work, or activities requiring lifting your arm over your head.

However, tendinopathy might be also related to genetic factors.

Top 4 Exercises To Relieve Shoulder Pain

You can address the shoulder pain at home and actively engage in performing therapy exercises for shoulder pain and physical therapy shoulder stretches. Find out all the benefits of PT here.

Many exercises can help you deal with this problem, but here are the top 4 therapy exercises for shoulder pain.

Arm-across-chest Stretch

Performing this exercise helps increase flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder joint and the surrounding muscles.

How to perform the exercise:

  • Hold your right hand out in front of you.

  • Reach your left hand behind your elbow and pull the right arm to the left and across the chest.

  • Hold this position for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.

  • Do each side 3–5 times, lower your arm if you feel any pain in your shoulder.

Neck Release Exercise

This exercise is a simple, easy, yet effective way to loosen tension in your neck and shoulders.

  • Sit straight and slowly bring your chin toward your chest. You should feel the stretch in the back of your neck.

  • Lean your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder and right to stretch the left one.

  • Hold each position for 30-60 seconds, release if it gets too painful

  • Do each side 3–5 times or more if feeling comfortable

If you want to go deeper in this stretch, before pulling your arm across the chest, pull it a little higher.

Chest Expansion Exercise

Strengthening the upper body is essential to relieve the shoulders, release tension, pain and build resistance.

Chest expansion is a great physical therapy exercise to do whenever you have the chance.

  • Stand and with both hands, take an exercise strap or a towel behind your back.

  • Hold the strap and draw your shoulder blades toward each other. Lift your chin toward the ceiling - be gentle.

  • Take deep breaths and hold the pose for 10-15 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.

If you want to get deeper in the stretch, move your hands closer together on the strap.

You can perform this exercise during the workday to release the tension and stiffness caused by sitting, as well as after work to relax and unwind.

Thread The Needle Stretch

This physical therapy exercise for shoulders is done on your mat and relieves tightness in your chest, shoulders, and upper back.

  • Lay your mat or a towel and get on your hands and knees. Lift your right hand with the palm facing away from your body.

  • Bring your arm under your chest and over to the left side of your body.

  • Keep your right shoulder active to avoid collapsing.

  • Keep your left hand on the floor for support.

  • Hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Then slowly come out of it and do the other side.

Final Thoughts

Physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain are an effective and simple way to reduce or completely eliminate the discomfort, increase range of motion and give yourself a chance to resume your usual activities.

Try to perform these exercises at least every other day, but you'd achieve the best results if you did the exercises every day.

Dedicate 15-30 minutes of your time in the morning or evening, and you will see the results in a few weeks.

If you need professional help contact Miracle Rehab Clinic and book an appointment with a physical therapist as soon as possible.

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