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  • susanherdman


So, your physio says you need a shoulder pulley…

It can get pretty overwhelming to try and find one to purchase online. A quick Google search for “shoulder pulley” turns up 5.61 million results, all of unknown quality, with prices ranging from around $15-50…and then who knows how long it’ll take to ship up to northern BC or Haida Gwaii??

Never fear, your handy hardware store is near!

What You’ll Need to Make Your Own:

  • 1 small rope pulley * (*NOTE: read the fine print carefully re: maximum weight capacity to ensure it is safe for use. I went with the strongest my local hardware store had (80kg/176lbs). I recommend at least ~100lbs (as both arms weigh approx 10-11% of your overall body weight (1), plus you’ll be adding more force with “pulling”)

  • Approx. 10 feet of line – of small enough diameter to go through pulley. Do NOT use old/worn ropes that may fray/give out on you.

  • Approx. 9-10 inches of ¾ inch diameter PVC pipe (and a hacksaw to cut it with)


Step 1) Cut ~5 feet of line (this will make up the rope for the actual “pulley”) and thread this through the pulley.

Step 2) To make the handles, cut two 4-5 inch pieces (depending on the width of your hand) of PVC pipe.

Step 3) Thread each end of the line through the handles

Step 4) Secure the handles with a bowline (or other SOLID knot of your choice). As a physiotherapist AND a sailor, I recommend the bowline as this knot can handle tons of pressure holding back a jib in a gale, and yet still be easy to untie (in case you need to adjust the length of the rope…)!! Here are step-by-step instructions on how to tie this useful knot:


Step A) Make a figure “6” with the standing end of the rope. Make sure that the loop passes ON TOP OF the standing end as in diagram below.

In the Scouting “Rabbit & Tree” analogy, the standing end is the “tree”, the base of the “6” is the "rabbit hole", and the working end is the “Rabbit”. The "Rabbit" pops up out of the hole, runs around the tree, and back down into the hole.

Step B) Take the working end (“rabbit”) pop it UP through the “hole” – then take it around and behind the “tree”

Step C) Put the working end (“rabbit”) back into the hole

Step D) Finish tightening the knot by pulling on the “tree”/standing end and both parts of the “rabbit”. Congrats!! Now repeat the same steps on the other side to make your second handle.

Step 5): Secure the pulley to your door:

Take the remainder of your line and attach it to the top of your pulley

Either tie a large stopper knot at the top of the BACK SIDE of your door…


if you want to be more secure – tie the other end to the door handle on the BACK SIDE of your door…again using our favourite Bowline knot!

Now you’ve got yourself a Shoulder Pulley! As handyman Red Green states (from the CBC classic “The Red Green Show” ), "Remember, I'm pulling for ya. We're all in this together!" (2).

For more information about exercises you can do with a shoulder pulley to improve shoulder range of motion and decrease pain, contact us at InReach Physio.

By: Susan Herdman, Registered Physiotherapist/Bowline-tying Extraordinaire!

Book a telephysio / online physio / virtual physio / video physiotherapy appointment with a registered physiotherapist in British Columbia. InReach Online Physio services communities in northern and rural BC, such as Masset, Queen Charlotte, Fraser Lake, Fort Nelson, Fort St James, Dease Lake, Fort St John, Dawson Creek, the Gulf Islands, and more!


1) Plagenhoef S, Evans FG and Abdelnour T (1983) Anatomical data for analyzing human motion. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 54, 169-178. Accessed July 14, 2022:

2), STANDS4 LLC, 2022. "The Red Green Show Quotes." Accessed July 14, 2022:

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