Physical Therapy Exercises You Can Do with Shoulder Pulleys

Shoulder Flexion Range of Motion

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Shoulder pulleys are an excellent way to improve rotator cuff and shoulder range of motion after injury or surgery. If you have shoulder pain or have had shoulder surgery, then physical therapy may be an excellent option to help you decrease your pain and improve your overall function.

You physical therapist may use therapeutic modalities like heat or ice to help decrease your pain, and exercises are often prescribed to help you improve your shoulder range of motion (ROM), strength, and mobility. Exercises are an important part of your overall rehabilitation program for your shoulder.

Common injuries and problems that may cause shoulder pain include, but are not limited to:

During the initial stages of treatment for shoulder pain or dysfunction, it is important to restore normal ROM to your shoulder. One way to do this is to use shoulder pulleys. These pulleys hang over the door, and are used to provide gentle, passive ROM to your shoulder.

Shoulder pulleys are used in many physical therapy clinics, and you may wish to purchase your own shoulder pulleys so you can perform shoulder ROM exercises at home. Another low cost and simple option is to make your own shoulder pulleys to use at home.

Let's Get Started with Shoulder Flexion

Before starting this, or any other exercise program, check in with your doctor and physical theraipst to make sure it is safe for you to do.

There are simple exercises that can be performed using your shoulder pulleys. You can follow this step by step guide to get started performing shoulder ROM using pulleys. Make sure you check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.

The first exercise to perform with your pulleys is shoulder flexion. To do this, hang your pulleys over a door and stand with your back to the door. Hold the handles of the pulleys in both hands, and pull the handle on your non-painful side down. When you do this, the other hand will slowly rise up. Allow your shoulder and arm to move forward and up while keeping your elbow straight, and use the pulleys to lift your arm as far as possible. Stop if you feel pain in your shoulder.

Allow the pulleys to pull your arm up into flexion until you feel slight strain in your shoulder. After 2 seconds with your shoulder in the raised position, use the pulleys to allow your arm to slowly return back down to your side. Repeat this motion 10 times for your painful shoulder, and move on to the next exercise.

Shoulder Abduction Using Pulleys

After you perform 10 repetitions of shoulder flexion, continue standing with your shoulder pulleys hanging over the door and with your back to the door. While holding both handles of the shoulder pulleys, gently pull the handle down in your hand on the non-painful side. As you do this, allow the pulleys to raise your painful shoulder out to the side.

Be sure to keep your elbow straight as you allow the pulleys to lift your arm out to your side. Allow your arm to lift up until a strain is felt in your shoulder. Stop if you feel sharp pain.

When you feel gentle tension in your shoulder, stop and hold this position for 2 seconds. Then, use your non-painful hand and arm to slowly lower your painful arm and shoulder down to your side. Repeat this exercise 10 times, and then you are ready to move on to the next exercise. Remember, you should not feel any lasting pain in your shoulder when you do these exercises. If you do, check in with your physical therapist.

Shoulder Internal Rotation Using Over-the-Door Pulleys

To perform internal rotation using over-the-door shoulder pulleys, stand with your back to the door and hold both handles of your pulley system. Your painful shoulder should be rotated inward slightly and your hand should be resting comfortably behind your hip or low back.

Use your non-painful side to pull the pulley handle down. As you do this, the hand behind your back will be pulled up by the pulley system. Use the pulley to pull your hand up your back until a gentle stretch is felt, and hold this position for two seconds. Then slowly allow the arm behind your back to lower back down to the area just behind your hip.

This exercise can also be performed using a towel behind your back instead of the pulley system.

Repeat this exercise for 10 repetitions. You have just completed an exercise program designed to help you improve the ROM of your shoulder. This exercise program can be repeated up to three times per day. Be sure to ask your physical therapist how frequently you need to perform these exercises.

As you progress with your shoulder treatment, these exercises may become easier to do. Progression for shoulder ROM exercises include performing shoulder active range of motion exercises, scapular stabilization exercises, or rotator cuff strengthening exercises. Again, check with your physical therapist to ensure that you are progressing properly with your shoulder exercise program.

Shoulder pain can limit your ability to use your arm normally, and it may prevent you from working properly or from enjoying sports and normal recreational activity. Performing gentle range of motion exercises with a shoulder pulley system may be your initial steps to restoring normal mobility and function to your painful shoulder.

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