Passive Range of Motion Exercises for Shoulder

Pain in the shoulder. Muscular male body. Handsome bodybuilder posing on gray background. Black and white photo with red dot
Use passive range of motion exercises to loosen stiff shoulders. (Image: Staras/iStock/Getty Images)

Have you ever had a shoulder injury or surgery? If so, you know moving your arm can be difficult and quite painful afterwards. Fortunately, passive range of motion, or ROM, exercises can be helpful in these situations. They allow you to stretch your arm in various directions without actively using your own muscles. This can help improve the motion of the arm without causing excess pain.

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The doorway stretch is used to improve external rotation to make activities like washing your hair easier. (Image: vadimguzhva/iStock/Getty Images)

Doorway Shoulder Stretch

This exercise stretches into external or lateral rotation. It helps to increase the motion used to reach behind your head while putting on a shirt or washing your hair.

Table Flexion Stretch

Table flexion stretches help improve shoulder flexion. You use the motion of flexion to reach forward and overhead, as though grabbing something from a cabinet or shelf.

Dowel Stretch

In this exercise, use a dowel or broom stick to improve shoulder extension. Extension occurs when you move your shoulder backwards as though reaching for a wallet in your back pocket.

Sleeper Stretch

This technique helps improve your internal or medial rotation. This is important when reaching in back of your body to tuck in a shirt or fasten a bra.

Sideways Table Stretch

This exercise improves your shoulder abduction range of motion, or ROM. You use this motion, which occurs when you reach out to the side and overhead, while lifting your arm to put on deodorant or to shave your underarms.

Warnings and Precautions:

To improve passive range of motion, complete three to five repetitions of each stretch. This can be performed two to three times each day. While you should feel a stretch or pull, none of the exercises should cause increased pain. Be sure to speak to your doctor with any concerns prior to beginning a stretching regimen, especially if you have recently undergone surgery.

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