3 Essential Shoulder Stretches to Manage Arthritis

If you have arthritis in your shoulder, you may be tempted to keep it as immobile as possible. But this can actually increase your pain, not lessen it.

All joints—with or without arthritis—benefit from stretching and gentle movements to keep blood flowing to the joint, build up surrounding muscle, and maintain range of motion.

These 3 stretches can help you reap the benefits of movement for your shoulder. However, if they aggravate your arthritis pain, stop doing them and ask your doctor for alternate exercise options.

Stretch 1: Overhead Shoulder Stretch

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Lace your fingers together with your palms facing down.
  • Lift your arm straight above your head, so your palms face up. Hold for 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t lace your fingers together, hold onto something pole-shaped instead, like a broomstick.

Stretch 2: Crossover Shoulder Stretch

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your right arm across your chest, parallel to the ground.
  • Place your left hand on your right elbow. The elbow should be bent slightly, not locked.
  • Push gently on your elbow for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times with each arm.

Stretch 3: Shoulder Stretch with Towel

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a hand towel or exercise band in your right hand.
  • Raise your right hand behind your head and let the towel hang down your back.
  • Reach your left hand behind your back to grab the towel, with the back of your hand against your spine.
  • Gently pull the towel upward until you feel the stretch in your left shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Switch hands and repeat.

There are also shoulder strengthening exercises that you can add to your routine.

In addition to stretching and strengthening exercises, your overall exercise plan should include some aerobic activity to raise your heart rate a few times a week.

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