Exercises for Shoulder Pain

The Shoulder Joint

The shoulder is one of the most used joints in the body. Throughout a normal day we constantly reach, lift, and carry objects that may result in injuries to our shoulder joint over time. Such injuries can consist of tendinitis, tendon tears (rotator cuff), shoulder instability or even arthritis. This article will explain shoulder pain exercises which can help decrease your shoulder pain. 

Shoulder Anatomy MusclesAnatomy of the Shoulder Joint

Shoulder Pain Exercises and Stretches

When you experience limited mobility when you try to reach for objects overhead and don't have enough motion, these exercises can help:

  1. Wall Slides-  Face a wall with a towel placed flat against the wall, then slide your arm up the wall until you feel a stretch and hold. Perform exercise 20-30 times.
  2. Pectoral Stretch- Find a door frame or a corner in a room, place both arms at 90 degrees and lean forward until a stretch is felt on the anterior aspect of your shoulder. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times

Pectoral StretchPec Stretch

  1. Sleeper Stretch- This stretch is an excellent way of stretching your posterior shoulder capsule and is most commonly performed with overhead athletes. When the posterior capsule becomes tight it can lead to impingement related symptoms. This in turn could impinge the soft tissue structures on the front of our shoulders. Lay on the same side of the shoulder that you want to stretch.  Put your elbow at a 90 degree position and use your other hand to push down in a gentle stretch of the shoulder.  Hold for 10 to 30 seconds depending on comfort level and repeat 10 times.  You should only push down until you feel the stretch and it should not be painful. 

Image of Sleeper StretchImage of Sleeper Stretch
4. Towel Stretch for Internal Rotation- Put the hand of the shoulder that you are stretching behind your back while grabbing the end of a towel. The opposite hand grabs the top of the towel from behind your head and gently pulls upward toward the ceiling.  Only pull until you feel a stretch as it should not be painful. 


Strengthening Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Strength deficits/impairments in the shoulder can become very common if we don't activate the correct musculature and compensate when we perform our exercises with shoulder pain. The most common weakness we see in the shoulder is the rotator cuff muscles.  We often do not perform isolated rotator cuff strengthening at the gym. The rotator cuff is the most important muscle group in the shoulder as this provides the stability for the joint with weakness can lead to instability or possible tears. Here are a couple great exercises for shoulder pain:

  1. Theraband External Rotation- The two muscles that make up this motion consist of the infraspinatus and the teres minor. When performing this exercise it is important to understand that slow and controlled form is the correct way to strengthen. You want to keep your elbow tucked into your side, rotate the shoulder away from the body without letting your elbow leave your side.

JOI ER T BandImage of ER T-Band Exercise

  1. Theraband Internal Rotation- The least torn rotator cuff muscle in the group is the subscapularis which performs the internal rotation movement of the shoulder and is the largest/strongest cuff muscle. To perform this exercise we want to pull the band toward our body while maintaining our elbow against our body just like when we performed the above exercise (external rotation).

JOI T band ExerciseImage of IR T-Band Exercise


  1. Theraband Rows- Strengthening the posterior aspect of our shoulder which is often neglected is just as equally important as strengthening the anterior aspect of our shoulder. Performing rows will help improve posture and reduce stress to the anterior portion of the shoulder. To perform this exercise, stand facing the bands which should be wrapped around a door and pull the bands towards you while keeping your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle. Feel yourself squeezing your shoulder blades together.

If you try these top shoulder exercises and your shoulder is still bothering you, seek help from one of our physical therapists or orthopaedic physicians, please call (904) JOI-2000.

If you are having shoulder pain that will not go away, read more about 5 common shoulder symptoms you should not ignore here.  Other related shoulder articles: 

Rotator cuff repair

Rotator cuff tears

Types of shoulder surgery

Rotator cuff exercises

JOI Rehab Has 12 Clinics That Treat Shoulder Pain

When treating patients for shoulder pain, JOI Rehab clinicians typically concentrate on range-of-motion with active and passive mobility exercises. Joint mobilization, which is a hands-on technique to improve mobility of the joints, is another way to treat pain in the shoulder. In some cases, patients will undergo strength training as a way to treat their shoulder pain. Lastly, electrical modalities such as ultrasound and E-Stim (electric stimulation) may be used to remedy the pain. 

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at JOI Rehab for physical therapy, call 904-858-7045

By: Jared Ernest, PT

To make an appointment with a JOI Orthopaedic Shoulder Specialist, please call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online or click below.



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