Shoulder Pendulum

Daniel Sedran

June 9, 2021

Man performing a shoulder exercise at First Line Physiotherapy North York

The shoulder pendulum is a simple shoulder exercise that requires no equipment. As a result, it is a great low-level exercise many different people can perform. It can be helpful for allowing muscles in the shoulder and rotator cuff to relax. It is called the shoulder “pendulum” because it involves your arm gently swinging back and forth. This is similar to the pendulum that hangs in a grandfather clock.

Who should do this stretch?

This exercise is good for most people who have been experiencing discomfort in their shoulder. Someone who has recently had an injury, or a surgery, might be recommended this exercise early in their rehabilitation plan. Note: It is important to follow your surgical protocol as prescribed by your surgeon and exercises by your physiotherapist; if you’ve recently had surgery, do no attempt without consulting a health professional. This exercise can also be used for individuals who have been diagnosed with frozen shoulder, rotator cuff impingement/tendinitis, and many other conditions involving the shoulder.

How do I do it?

The only requirement for this exercise is a stable surface. Good examples of these are a table, a low counter, or a banister. Otherwise, you must have space to stand in a comfortable position, and space for your arm to sway.

  1. Begin in a standing position, with the hand of your non-injured arm on the table.
  2. Stagger your feet and lean your body forward, with your injured arm in front of you.
  3. Try to keep your injured arm totally relaxed, hanging in front of your body. 
  4. Shift your body weight between your two feet, and the arm planted on the table. If your injured arm is relaxed, this weight shifting will cause it to sway. Do so for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then take a break. 
  5. Try to sway in different directions: forward and back, side to side, small circles, etc.
    Important Tip

    The movement should not be painful. Some mild discomfort is expected at first, especially if the arm is not fully relaxed. If the movement causes pain, it may be too soon to attempt this exercise, or your form may need correcting. In either case, be sure to contact your physiotherapist if you’re having shoulder pain. During this exercise, you can also focus on taking slow and controlled breaths. As you exhale, try to let your arm go limp. Your breath is a very useful tool for muscle relaxation and nervous system regulation. 

    What To Expect

    If this is your first time doing an exercise like the shoulder pendulum, you may experience some soreness 24-48 hours after completing it for the first time. If that’s the case, take time to rest and consult your physiotherapist if it persists. As with all exercise, make 

    Stay safe and take care,

    Daniel Sedran

    Registered Physiotherapist
    Owner of First Line Physiotherapy