Shoulder Stabilization Exercises

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Shoulder Scapular Stabilization Exercises

The prone row is a great scapular stabilization exercise.
Lie on your stomach and slowly bend your elbow while pinching your shoulder blade back. Brett Sears, PT, 2011

If you have shoulder pain, you may be referred to a physical therapist to help you control your pain and improve your shoulder mobility. Your physical therapist will work closely with you to help you return to normal functional mobility and to regain normal use of your arm and shoulder.

Your physical therapist may use different treatments and modalities to help treat your shoulder condition. One of the best treatments for your shoulder is exercise. Your physical therapist can assess your particular shoulder condition and prescribe the right exercises for you.

Some types of exercises for your shoulder include:

This step-by-step guide is similar to a shoulder program your PT may use during your own rehab to help you get control of your scapula. The scapula, or shoulder blade, is the triangular shaped bone on each side of your upper back. The socket of the shoulder joint is a part of the scapula.

If you injure your shoulder, you may notice that it is difficult to properly use your arm, and sometimes you may start using your shoulder blade to help move your arm. This can cause poor habits that may continue to limit normal use of your arm long after your shoulder injury has healed. If this is the case, your physical therapist may prescribe scapular stabilization exercises to help you regain normal control and use of your shoulder.

Common problems that may cause improper use of the shoulder blade and that may require scapular stabilization exercise include, but are not limited to:

Before starting these or any other shoulder exercises, it is best to consult your doctor or physical therapist to be certain that exercising is safe for you to do.

The first scapular stabilization exercise is the prone row. You perform this by lying on your stomach on a bed. Slide to one side of the bed so that your arm is hanging straight down. Then, slowly bend your elbow and lift your hand towards your armpit. The motion should feel like you are pulling on a rope to start a lawn mower.

As you raise your arm, your shoulder blade should slowly move backward and up. When your hand is almost to your armpit, hold this position for one or two seconds, and then slowly lower back down to the starting position. Repeat this motion for 8 to 15 repetitions.

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The Prone "T" Scapular Stabilization Exercise

The prone
Lie face down and slowly raise your arm straight out to the side while pinching your shoulder blade back. Brett Sears, 2011

To perform the prone "T" (prone means to lie face down), lie on your stomach on the edge of a bed and hang your arm straight down. You can support your head with your opposite hand on your forehead.

While keeping your arm straight, slowly lift your arm out to the side and pinch your shoulder blade back towards your spine. You should feel like one-half of the letter "T." Hold this position for one to two seconds, and then slowly lower back to the starting position.

Repeat this exercise for 8 to 15 repetitions. Once you are done, move on to the next exercise.

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The Prone "Y" Scapular Stabilization Exercise

The prone
Lie face down and raise your straight arm up diagonally while pinching your shoulder blade back. Brett Sears, 2011

The prone "Y" is done just like the prone "T." Start by lying on your stomach on a bed with your arm hanging down. Slowly lift your arm up in a diagonal direction so that your shoulder blade pinches back behind you. You should feel like one-half of the letter "Y" when you are in the upper most position.

Hold this "Y" position for one to two seconds. Slowly lower back down to the starting position and repeat 8 to 15 repetitions. Then you can move on to the final scapular stabilization exercise.

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The Prone "I" Scapular Stabilization Exercise

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

Start the prone "I" in the same position as all the other scapular stabilization exercises. Simply lie on your belly with your arm hanging straight down. Keep your elbow straight and raise your arm up overhead. Your shoulder blade should slowly pinch back as you do this and your arm should be next to your ear at the uppermost position.

Hold the top position for one to two seconds, and then slowly return your arm to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 8 to 15 repetitions.

When you are able to perform these exercises easily, you can make them more challenging by holding a small dumbbell in your hand. If you don't have a dumbbell, hold a can of soup or bottle of water. Just remember to start with a light weight. One or two pounds should do.

Shoulder pain and dysfunction are common problems that your physical therapist can help you manage. Scapular stabilization exercises are a great way to regain normal control and use of your arm after a shoulder injury or surgery. These exercises can be performed a few times per week to maintain appropriate strength and postural control of your shoulder to help prevent future problems.

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