Shoulder Finger Ladder Exercise

Shoulder Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

By Mahnoush Rodriguez
Last Updated: September 9, 2018

❯ Exercises

Many people struggle with shoulder stiffness and limited range of motion. There are many tools you can use to restore your shoulder function. Shoulder finger ladder is one of them.

In this article, you will get an overview of what the common shoulder limitations are, what shoulder finger ladder exercise is, and what type of shoulder finger ladder you can get for your shoulder physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Important Note

DoctorsConvey does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Learn more

Shoulder finger ladder

Finger and shoulder ladder is a physical therapy tool for treating shoulder problems.

It helps you enhance your overhead reach and improve mobility and flexibility of your shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers.

Shoulder loss of motion

Shoulder injuries and chronic conditions can cause weakness, pain, stiffness and movement restrictions in your shoulder.

Movement restrictions and loss of motion can limit your daily overhead activities like combing your hair or dressing.

Even though shoulder problems are often the cause of loss of motion, they are not the only reason for shoulder movement restrictions. It is essential you seek medical advice from your doctor or a qualified healthcare provider before you do any exercise or use any products to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Common shoulder restrictions

Shoulder restrictions typically involve to main shoulder movements:

❱ Shoulder abduction

Abduction is the motion of raising your arms out to the side.

❱ Shoulder flexion
Flexion is the motion of raising your arms in front of you.


Shoulder problems and injuries can make it painful or even impossible to extend your arm and reach the end of abduction or flexion motion.

Some of the reasons can be muscle weakness, rotator cuff defects, shoulder impingement or joint problems like frozen shoulder.

Shoulder finger ladder exercise

Ladder exercises help you stretch your shoulder, restore range of motion, and strengthen your muscles slowly.

Shoulder ladder therapy is typically prescribed after a shoulder surgery like rotator cuff repair or for improving range of motion in chronic conditions like frozen shoulder.

As part of your rehabilitation program, your physical therapist educates you on the exact technique, the number of repetitions, frequency and safety measures.

This is necessary before you start doing the exercise on your own.

► Shoulder ladder for flexion

A wall ladder is specifically designed to gradually build strength and bring back flexibility to your shoulder, fingers, and wrist.

Wall ladder exercises can be done to improve both flexion and abduction range of motion.

Since the technique is different for flexion and abduction, your therapist will let you know which one is right for you and how to do it.

The ladder is typically used for flexion exercises as follows:

  • Stand in front of the wall facing the finger ladder with both arms extended down at your side.
  • Gently bring up the compromised arm against the ladder in front of you.
  • Slowly use your fingers to walk up each step of the ladder one after another.
  • Keep your shoulders square as your fingers climb up.
  • Continue climbing up and stretching the arm as far as it is comfortable.
  • Then bring down your arm gently and avoid a bouncing or jerking movement. You can also walk your fingers down the ladder instead.
  • Repeat the workout as prescribed by your therapist.

If you feel a sharp pain, pinching, popping, clicking or numbness, immediately stop the exercise and report this to your doctor or therapist.

These can be signs of overstretching and may further damage your shoulder.

► Wall crawl exercise

You can do the wall ladder exercise without the ladder just by using a doorframe or the wall itself and crawl it with your fingertips.

Shoulder ladder benefits

Even though wall crawl exercise can produce the same results, the ladder has an advantage of allowing your fingers to grip the ladder steps during the exercise.

This makes it less likely for your arm to slip if your shoulder gets tired or you feel a sudden discomfort or weakness.

Best shoulder finger ladders

After you have been instructed and trained by your doctor or therapist, you can purchase a wall shoulder ladder and continue your exercise at home.

Buy one of the below ladders to do this exercise at home:


UELadder Shoulder Finger Ladder with an Over-The-Door Mount

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  • Size: 3.8″ (width) x 40″ (length) x 0.8″ (depth)
  • Weight: 1.9 lb
  • Material: Unfinished wood
  • Advantages: Light and portable with an over-the-door mount. Can be moved around from room to room and set aside after the exercise. Height adjustable.
    No need to secure it to the wall but can be mounted if desired.
  • Disadvantages: The piece that holds it over the door can slip off.
  • Made in USA

CanDo 10-1160 Finger and Shoulder Ladder

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  • Size: 2″ (width) x 54″ (length) x 1″ (depth)
  • Weight: 4.0 lb
  • Material: Wood with a clear water resistant finish
  • Advantages: Industry standard, sturdy
  • Disadvantages: Not portable. It has to be installed on the wall and can leave holes after the removal.
  • Made in USA

Table-based shoulder ladder exercise

Table mounted shoulder ladder is usually used when the shoulder is too weak, stiff or painful.

In that case, wall ladder shoulder extension can be difficult and put too much stress on the shoulder.

The table shoulder ladder is usually used until the strength, the range of motion and mobility is increased enough to allow the use of wall shoulder finger ladder.

During this workout, you should be in a seated position in front of the ladder and use a movable dowel rod for the climb.

This type of ladder allows for a variety of movements with different intensities.

For example, you can intensify shoulder abduction motion by placing the hands further out on the dowel rod,
you can raise the ladder to a more upright position by increasing its angle over the table.

Your therapist will educate you on how to work with the ladder and gives you an exercise program to follow.

Table shoulder ladder

After you have been instructed and trained by your doctor or therapist, buy below table shoulder ladder and continue your exercise at home.


Rehabilitation Advantage Shoulder Exercise Ladder

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  • Working surface: 18.5″ wide x 23.5″ high
  • Adjustable angles: 70 degrees, 65 degrees, 55 degrees
  • Dowel rod: 36″
  • Weight: 8.55 lb
  • Material: Durable Birch wood


Please note that the information compiled in this article is from a variety of sources and it may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. Always seek the advice of a doctor or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Learn more