Best Bet Exercises for Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder

Lisa Konstantellis, MSPT
Joint Mobility Center, Hospital for Special Surgery


When you have osteoarthritis (OA) of the shoulder, it is important to stretch and strengthen the surrounding muscles to provide more support and reduce stresses around the joint. The following Best Bet Exercises will help you get started on your path to feeling stronger and more flexible, making using your arms during daily activities easier and less painful. Remember: Exercise should not be painful if you experience pain, discontinue and consult with your physician.

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Pendulum Exercise

This exercise aids in general relaxation and pain relief of the shoulder.

Hold onto a chair or countertop for balance. Slowly bend at your waist slightly, letting the arm to be exercised dangle. Shifting your weight from side to side, let the arm swing in circles, front to back and side to side. Repeat 30 times in each direction, 1 time per day.

Shoulder Elevation Stretch

This exercise helps to stretch the shoulder joint, aiding in overall flexibility and ease of performing activities of daily living such as reaching into a kitchen cabinet.

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click to enlarge

Lie on your back, holding a cane in both hands. Slowly lift the cane up and overhead until you feel a gentle stretch in your shoulders. Slowly lower. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions, 1 time daily.

Shoulder Outward Rotation Stretch

This exercise helps to stretch the shoulder joint, aiding in overall flexibility and ease of performing activities of daily living such as combing your hair.

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click to enlarge

Lie on your back, holding a cane in both hands with your elbows bent and at your sides. Slowly rotate your hand outward, using the cane to provide a gentle stretch. Slowly return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions, 1 time daily.

Postural Muscle Strengthening

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click to enlarge

When you have shoulder OA, improving your overall posture will allow your shoulders to move in all directions more easily. These 2 exercises strengthen your postural muscles, allowing you to maintain good posture while you perform your daily activities.

Stand with good posture, shoulders relaxed and elbows bent at your sides. Holding an exercise band, draw your elbows backward, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions, 1 time daily.

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click to enlarge

Stand with good posture, shoulders relaxed and arms straight at your sides. Holding an exercise band, draw your arms backward, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions, 1 time daily.


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