Shoulder Exercises After Arthroscopic Surgery


Painful shoulder conditions may need physical therapy to help return to normal.
Physical Therapy can help if you have shoulder pain. Stockbyte/Getty Images

If you have shoulder pain, you may benefit from physical therapy to help you regain normal shoulder range of motion and strength and to return to normal function. Your physical therapist may use various modalities to help control your pain or improve muscle function, and he or she will likely prescribe shoulder exercises.

Rehabilitation after shoulder arthroscopy is one of the best ways to achieve a full recovery. Progression of exercises should be supervised by your physician and physical therapist. This step-by-step exercises progression is similar to one that your PT may use after you have shoulder surgery.

Before to check in with your doctor before starting this, or any other, exercise program for your shoulders to ensure that exercise is safe for you to do.

Pendulum Exercises

Shoulder pendulums, also known as Codman's exercises, are a simple way to relax your shoulder muscles after surgery. The pendulum exercises help to gently mobilize your shoulder joint and can be a first step to getting your range of motion back after shoulder surgery.

  1. Bend over at the waist letting the affected arm hang down at your side.
  2. Sway your body back and forth using the weight of the arm and gravity to generate small circles at the surgical shoulder.
  3. Use this technique to move your arm in clockwise and counter-clockwise circles.

Be sure to move in slow, steady circles, and stop if you feel any pain. (Shoulder pendulums are a great way to get your arm away from your body to apply deodorant.)

Bonus: Passive Range of Motion with Shoulder Pulleys

Isometric Exercises

Isometric exercise is a safe way to start getting your rotator cuff muscles working after shoulder surgery. Isometric means that the muscles around your shoulder contract, but no motion occurs. Here is how you do shoulder isometrics.

  1. Stand sideways along a wall with your elbow at a 90 degree angle
  2. Position the outside of your forarm against the wall.
  3. Press into the wall, contracting your muscles. (however, you will not move your shoulder)
  4. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat X 5
  5. Turn 180 degrees and position the inside of your forearm against the wall
  6. Repeat steps 2-5

Remember, you are not trying to crush the wall when performing the shoulder isometrics. Just give your arm a gently press, and be sure to stop if you feel any pain.

Scapular Stabilization Exercises

THe prone
Lie face down and slowly raise your arm up towards the side of your ear. Brett Sears, PT, 2011

Scapular, or shoulder blade, stabilization exercises can be done to help gain stability around your shoulder joint. They can be done while lying on your stomach and lifting your arm out to the side, up overhead, and then by pulling your arm down to your hip.

Check this step-by-step guide to scapular stabilization, and perform each exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions. Remember to stop if you feel any pain in your shoulder or neck area.

Resisted Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator cuff strengthening is simple with a resistance band.
Use a resistance band to help strengthen the muscles responsible for shoulder internal rotation. Brett Sears, PT, 2012

Once you shoulder is moving again, you can perform rotator cuff strengthening exercises with a resistance band or light weights. This can help get your shoulder working properly again and help you return to normal activity and function.

These exercises are typically not performed until 3 - 4 weeks post arthroscopy. To perform these exercises the shoulder should be moved through flexion, extension, abduction, and internal/external rotation against resistance provided by elastic tubing or light weights. Perform each motion 10 to 15 times. Your PT can show you the exact technique to use.

Physical therapy after shoulder surgery involves slowly and gradually getting your shoulder moving. Your PT can work with you to devise a specialized exercise program for you to do after shoulder arthroscopy.

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