10 Shoulder Wand Exercises To Soothe Pain And Stiffness

Written by on May 10, 2022 — Medically reviewed by Mich Torres (PT)

If you’ve ever stumbled into a physical therapy clinic or their social media page, chances are you’ve seen some form of shoulder wand exercises.

These exercises are simple and convenient to warm up and loosen your shoulder joint. All you need is some type of PVC pipe, a cane, or a broom handle and you are good to go.

Below, we’ll give you 10 exercises so you can get started right now. Here’s what we’ll cover, tap on any of the links to quickly jump into that section:

10 shoulder exercises with a wand

A quick reminder before starting – don’t push through the pain. This can cause further irritation and damage to your joint, increasing your pain instead of relieving it.

Use that feeling of “pain about to start” as your limit. This will ensure you’re making progress without injuring your shoulder joint.

With that said, here are the best shoulder wand exercises with instructions:

1) Shoulder flexion

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the wand on both ends.
  • The end of the wand on your healthy side will be on your thigh.
  • The end of the injured arm will be in front of your body.
  • Then, slowly raise the wand overhead using your healthy arm to help the injured shoulder. Keep your elbows straight.
  • Once you’ve reached your limit, go back to starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

2) Shoulder extension

  • Stand while holding the wand on the side of your sore arm.
  • Hold the back end of the wand with your affected hand, the other hand holding the wand’s shaft.
  • Use your good arm to push the wand backward while keeping your arms straight.
  • Go as far as you can tolerate, then go back to starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

3) Forward press

  • In a standing position, hold the shaft of the wand with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise the wand at shoulder level and near your chest.
  • Slowly push the wand in front of your body.
  • Once you’ve fully straightened your elbows, go back to starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

4) Shoulder abduction

  • In a standing position, hold both ends of the wand.
  • Place the palm of the injured arm facing away from your body.
  • Start with the wand at the level of your thigh.
  • Use your healthy arm to slowly push the wand towards the side of your injured arm, keeping your elbow straight.
  • Go as far as you can go, then come back to starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

5) Shoulder rotation – external

  • Lie on your back with a rolled towel or small pillow under your injured upper arm.
  • Place the palm of the injured side on one end of the wand.
  • Hold the shaft of the wand with your good arm.
  • Your injured upper arm should be at a 45° angle from your torso.
  • Place the wand at chest level with both elbows bent at a 90° angle.
  • Use your good arm to push the other side outward, as far as you can go.
  • Come back to the start position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

6) Shoulder internal rotation

  • Same starting position as the external rotation exercise.
  • This time, use the healthy arm to pull the injured shoulder inward towards your belly.
  • Repeat 10 times.

7) Shoulder horizontal abduction

  • Lie on your back and hold the wand with both hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Place the wand in front of you at shoulder height and keep your elbows straight.
  • Push the wand outwards towards the side of your injured arm.
  • Go as far as you can go and return to starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

8) Shoulder horizontal adduction

  • Same starting position as shoulder horizontal abduction.
  • This time, use your healthy arm to pull the injured shoulder inwards, keeping your elbows straight.
  • Repeat 10 times.

9) Side bends

  • In a standing position, grab the shaft of the wand with both hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise the wand overhead, keeping your back and elbows straight.
  • Slowly lower the wand to the right side of your body.
  • Return to the starting position and lower the wand to the left side of your body.
  • Then, return to starting position. That’s one repetition.
  • Repeat 10 times.

10) Boat rows

  • In a standing position, grab the shaft of the wand with both hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise one side of the wand diagonally to your upper right corner. Lower it to your lower-left corner.
  • Then raise the wand again, to your upper left corner. Lower it to your lower right corner.
  • That’s one repetition.
  • Repeat 10 times.

6 tips to help with your tight shoulders

There are other methods aside from wand exercises that you can use to manage shoulder tightness and pain:

1) Do heat therapy

There are several ways in which heat can help with joint or muscle tightness (1):

  • Increases soft tissue temperature which lessens muscle stiffness.
  • Improves blood flow to muscles, helpful in reducing potential muscle spasms.
  • Reduces muscle activity.

A heated gel pack or a hot water bag right on your shoulder are some of the examples of heat therapy remedies you can do at home.

Related: Is hot therapy good for your rotator cuff tear?

2) Stretch your shoulder

It’s no secret that stretching is an effective way to lengthen tight muscles. It can also help in the freezing stage of frozen shoulder, characterized by severe tightness.

You can easily include a stretching routine with any of the wand exercises above. Just, hold the end position of the movements you feel the tightest for 30 seconds in each repetition.

And for maximum results, combine your heat treatment with stretching. Research shows that these two treatments together provide more benefits than doing each one alone. (1)

3) Massage your shoulder

Research shows that massage can be an effective way to reduce muscle stiffness. (2)

It also helps in improving blood flow in the affected area. (3) This can probably bring in the feeling of relaxation, helping you relieve stress and muscle tension.

There are various massage techniques and tools available in the market. But if you want a proper way to do it, book with a licensed massage therapist around your area.

This will help: Frozen shoulder massage techniques.

4) Strengthen your shoulder muscles

There can be times when your perceived tightness might be a form of muscle weakness.

Weak and overused muscles tend to shorten in length over time. This adaptation probably allows them to be more readily activated, which may hide their weakness. (4)

However, strengthening exercises around your shoulders may help reverse this trend, thus reducing tightness.

Here’s an easy strengthening exercise you can try today:

Shoulder blade squeeze slide with resistance band

  • In a standing position, hold the resistance band with both hands at shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your elbows close to your torso and bend them at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep your elbow tucked in while pulling both ends of the resistance band outward.
  • Slowly squeeze your shoulder blade together as you near end-range.
  • Return to start position and repeat 10 times.

Try this: Safe strengthening exercises for frozen shoulder (and other conditions)

5) Try acupuncture

Acupuncture is a technique that stimulates specific pressure points around the body. In effect, this can bring about muscle relaxation. (5)

Traditionally, an acupuncturist may use fine, thin needles to pierce your pressure points. But they may also use noninvasive forms like a laser, herbal leaves, or hand pressure.

Learn more: Acupuncture for frozen shoulder – does it work?

6) Go to physical therapy

Feeling some tightness can also mean that you are in a state of what we medically call muscle guarding. This means your muscle is in a constant state of tension to limit painful motions.

If this is the case then consult your physical therapist. We are movement experts that can figure out and fix any improper movement patterns through the use of exercise and manual treatments.


What are 3 exercises that strengthen the shoulders?

Push-ups, dumbbell raises, and bend-forward shoulder rows are three good strengthening options.

What is the fastest way to heal a frozen shoulder?

During the early months of frozen shoulder, steroid injections can help keep your symptoms at bay. (6) In later months, surgery might offer the fastest way out of a frozen shoulder.

Learn more: Top 10 frozen shoulder treatments according to research.

Does frozen shoulder cause pain around the shoulder blades?

Yes, it may lead to shoulder blade pain or other nearby areas.

Conclusion: Wand exercises for tight shoulders

Shoulder wand exercises are great cost-effective exercises for tight shoulders. Do each exercise slowly and with proper form to reap its full benefits.

To supplement your exercises, consult your healthcare professional to properly identify what’s causing your shoulder tightness.


  1. Nakano, Jiro et al. “The effect of heat applied with stretch to increase range of motion: a systematic review.” Physical therapy in sport: official journal of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports Medicine vol. 13,3 (2012): 180-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2011.11.003
  2. Eriksson Crommert, M et al. “Massage induces an immediate, albeit short-term, reduction in muscle stiffness.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports vol. 25,5 (2015): e490-6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25487283/
  3. Portillo-Soto, Andrea et al. “Comparison of blood flow changes with soft tissue mobilization and massage therapy.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 20,12 (2014): 932-6. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2014.0160
  4. Izraelski, Jason. “Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance: The Janda Approach.” The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association vol. 56,2 (2012): 158. https://books.google.com.ph/books/about/Assessment_and_Treatment_of_Muscle_Imbal.html?id=EJapngEACAAJ&redir_esc=y
  5. Kim, Daeho et al. “Electroacupuncture and Manual Acupuncture Increase Joint Flexibility but Reduce Muscle Strength.” Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 8,4 414. 20 Oct. 2020, doi: 10.3390/healthcare8040414
  6. Koh, Kim Hwee. “Corticosteroid injection for adhesive capsulitis in primary care: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials.” Singapore medical journal vol. 57,12 (2016): 646-657. doi: 10.11622/smedj.2016146

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