Shoulder Range of Motion Exercises

The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the human body. The anatomical structure of this joint enables it to have an incredible amount of freedom or range of motion. The ability to move the shoulder joint in a wide variety of directions is vital for complete functionality in sporting activities.

Increased mobility of the shoulder joint comes at the potential expense of joint stability. Therefore anyone can experience shoulder problems. Active young people, especially children and athletes often develop shoulder injuries.

After the age of 25, many individuals develop shoulder pain from the wear and tear of routine activities. Individuals who reach middle age, and use their shoulders frequently in their specific occupation are particularly susceptible to problems. Other groups especially prone to shoulder problems are weekend athletes and do it yourself painters.

Early treatment is imperative for a good prognosis. So, if you have shoulder pain, see your doctor without any hesitation. It is natural to react to shoulder pain by not moving your shoulder, which can lead to complete loss of shoulder mobility. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. After evaluation, an exercise program will be designed to keep your shoulder in motion.

One good exercise which can improve motion and decrease shoulder pain is Codman’s Exercise or Pendulum Exercise. This exercise may be performed in a prone (face-down) lying position or standing while leaning on a chair with the opposite arm.


To relax the muscles in your shoulder. To relieve pain and increase motion.


Lie on your stomach close to the edge of the bed. Let your weak arm hang over the edge of the bed. Relax your shoulder, arm and hand. Let your shoulder blade relax and drop down.


Slowly and gently swing your arm forward and back. Do not use your neck muscles. Relax them. It might be easier to have someone else gently start swinging your arm. As pain decreases, increase your swing.

Initially arm swing should begin at 15 degree angles and eventually progress to 30-45 degree angles as pain subsides within time. The duration of the swing should initially be 15 seconds and eventually progress to 3-5 minutes.


To relax the muscles in your shoulder, in order to relieve pain and to increase motion.


Stand and hold onto a sturdy chair with your good arm. Bend forward at the waist and bend your knees to help protect your back. Relax your weak arm, let it hang limp. Relax your shoulder blade and let it drop.


Keep your shoulder relaxed and use body motion to swing your arm in small circles. Stand tall and relaxed. Repeat motion and change direction of circles. The duration of the circles should initially be 30 seconds and eventually progress to 3-5 minutes.

To get a rough idea of the type of motion involved, the image to the side is an animation; if it is not moving, try reloading this page.