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.

Watch how osteoarthritis develops in the shoulder joint. Shoulder Osteoarthritis Video

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.


These 3 stretches can help you reap the benefits of movement for your shoulder. Try doing them for a few minutes every day. Make them part of your daily routine at a convenient time—this will encourage you to remember to do them.

See Shoulder Stretches

However, if they aggravate your arthritis pain, stop doing them and ask your doctor for alternate exercise options.

See Shoulder Exercises for Arthritis

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.

Watch: Video: Overhead Shoulder Stretch for Arthritis Pain Relief

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.

Watch: Video: Crossover Shoulder Stretch for Arthritis Pain Relief

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.

Watch: Video: Towel Shoulder Stretch for Arthritis Pain Relief

Ready to take shoulder stretches to the next level? Then add these shoulder strengthening exercises to your routine.

See Shoulder Strengthening Exercises

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.

See Aerobic Exercise for Shoulder Arthritis

Learn more:

Exercising with Arthritis

What Is Shoulder (Subacromial) Bursitis?

Carrie DeVries worked as the content marketing manager at Veritas Health. She combined a background of writing and editing, marketing, and patient education to best serve the consumers, patients, and physicians who rely on Veritas Health for information.