Recently, I had two successful experiences treating mild frozen shoulder using a regimen of gentle yoga poses. These poses are great for opening up tight shoulders in general and stretching shoulder muscles after lifting weights as well.
About one year ago, I started to develop a frozen shoulder. It began with mild pain, stiffness and discomfort when lifting my right arm. Then, it progressed to what felt to be extreme stiffness in my right shoulder, affecting almost all movement. I suppressed my impulse to panic. I knew friends and family who had to undergo long-term, expensive physical therapy (PT) for severe cases of frozen shoulder. As a certified yoga teacher, I was informed about some amazing, transformative stretches that would help. I got this, I thought. Let’s try yoga first before resorting to PT.
My son had a frozen shoulder the previous spring from repeatedly lifting his heavy school backpack with his right arm. At the time, I acted quickly, setting him up with a series of simple deep shoulder stretches he could do standing up in his bedroom against his chest of drawers. (As a busy body adolescent, he wasn’t exactly the right candidate for more focused, guided yoga stretches). Soon enough, the stiffness in his shoulder eased. Motivated by improvement, he continued to repeat the stretches regularly as summer approached. By July, his shoulder stiffness had almost completely alleviated, and he was able to swim freestyle throughout the summer.
Having successfully treated my son’s frozen shoulder, I was further convinced that I could handle it. After practicing the following yoga stretching sequence for a few weeks, the stiffness in my right shoulder began to alleviate. Within one month, it felt completely healed. As a preventive measure, I continue to practice these stretches at least three times per week. Follow the healthy lifestyle tips below to treat frozen shoulder at home.
A few notes about treating overworked muscles and ligaments at home:
- Healing takes time. Don’t expect immediate results.
- The magic is in repetition. You should repeat the stretches twice a day for several weeks, or even months—as long as it takes to heal.
- Go to your doctor to check your vitamin, mineral and nutrient levels. Nutrient deficiencies can work against the healing process.
- If you feel sharp pain or are experiencing complete immobility in your shoulder, visit a doctor.
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- Sit on your shins with knees locked together and bent. If your hips do not reach your heels, place a pillow under your hips.
- Drop your torso down toward your legs. Drop your head to the floor.
- Reach your hands and arms forward, placing your hands flat, fingers facing forward with palms down.
- As you take deep breaths, press your chest and shoulders toward the floor and continue to reach forward with your fingers.
- Hold, continuing deep breathing, for 60-90 seconds.
Active Child’s Pose
- For a deeper shoulder stretch in child pose, first complete the child’s pose described above.
- Rest your shoulders and arms by placing them on the floor reaching behind you alongside your hips.
- Then reach your arms and hands forward again.
- Press the tips of your fingers into the floor and lift your palms off the floor. Your hands should be in a claw shape.
- Hold and breath for 60-90 seconds.
- Sit in a comfortable seated position.
- Stretch your arms out to your sides.
- Cross your arms in front of you, creating an X shape, with your elbow tucked one on top of the other. Note which elbow/arm is on the bottom (left or right).
- Press your forearms toward each other.
- Hook the fingers of the bottom hand onto the inside of the top wrist.
- If your fingers don’t reach, stay there, with your bottom fingers reaching toward the top wrist.
- Breath and hold for 60-90 seconds.
- Release and repeat with the opposite arm/elbow on top.
One Armed Shoulder Opening
- Lie flat on your stomach.
- Stretch your arms alongside you in a T shape.
- Turn your torso and hips to the right, so that you’re lying on your right side. Don’t move your arms.
- Bend your left knee.
- Place your left foot on the floor behind your right knee.
- Breath and hold for 60-90 seconds.
- This stretch is intense. You can roll out of the stretch then roll back into it.
- Repeat on the left side.
Easier Alternative: Seated Inner Shoulder Stretch
- Sit on your heels or cross legged on the floor.
- Bend your elbows and place your hands on your hips.
- Press your elbows behind you and toward each other.
- Press your shoulders down and back.
- Breath and hold for 60-90 seconds as you continue to press your shoulders back and elbows toward each other.
- Advanced version: If your hands can reach each other, clasp your hands together as you breath and hold.