What Is the Purpose of Codman Pendulum Exercises?

Your shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body. Although it is a ball and socket joint, the socket is very shallow, allowing the ball to rotate through almost a 360 degree range. Because it is so mobile, the shoulder is also vulnerable to injury. When injured, Codman pendulum exercises may be recommended by a health care professional as part of therapy to relax the muscles in your shoulder, relieve pain and increase range of motion.

A massage therapist works over a client who has her arms swinging from the massage table. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Pendulum Exercises

Codman exercises can be done in one of two ways. You can do them lying on your stomach on a therapy table with your arm and shoulder over the side, or you can do them standing, bent forward at the waist, letting your arm hang straight toward the floor. In either case, the goal is to have your arm hanging loosely, with your shoulder blade relaxed. Once in position, you can begin to move your arm gently by swinging it. Start with movements forward and back, then side to side, and lastly in small circles. Initial movements should be about 15 degrees from vertical but as you loosen up, let the movement go out to 30 degrees.

Relax the Muscles

Whenever you have a shoulder injury, there will be associated muscle tightness, even on a slight degree, to help stabilize the joint while the injury heals. Because those muscles are being used almost constantly, they grow tight and sore. Codman exercises puts your shoulder in a position to allow gravity to relax the muscles by gently pulling those muscles while your arm swings.

Relieve Pain and Improve Circulations

While your arm is swinging, your body is circulating blood through the muscles and joint capsule of your shoulder. This increase in circulation helps to speed the removal of waste products and reduce soreness. This increased circulation brings the injured tissue the nutrients necessary to make strong repairs.

Increase Range of Motion

A common instinct when you have a shoulder injury is to hold your shoulder still to avoid pain. However, holding it still may actually prolong your recovery process because adhesions can form while the healing is taking place that will have to be eliminated to return your shoulder to full function. Codman exercises maintain range of motion during your recovery.

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