If you have injured your shoulder a physical therapist may prescribe a series of exercises to help you regain the range of motion and strength you need to perform activities. While pain levels will fluctuate during recovery, it is important to continue with the exercises, even if it hurts. It will improve movement and support healing, which will lead to a faster return to regular activity.
One of the first shoulder physio exercises a patient may be instructed to perform is a simple pendulum exercise. This is a basic exercise that can be done sitting or standing, and is designed to help the shoulder and its muscles maintain the correct rotational and stabilizing movements necessary to return to normal function.
While this exercise may hurt at first, it is important to perform it until you are able to comfortably do so without increasing the pressure on the shoulder joint and causing further pain. Your physical therapist will help you determine the best starting point.
The next shoulder physio exercise is an isometric contraction of the rotator cuff muscles. These are the muscles that support the ball of the shoulder in the socket of the shoulder joint. Small tears in this group of muscles are common, either from overuse or just as part of aging, but larger injuries from direct trauma to the shoulder can also occur.
Stand approximately six inches from a wall, or the edge of a door jamb. Place the palm of your involved hand on the wall and bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle. Gently press into the wall and hold, for about five seconds, and then slowly release. It should be challenging to do this exercise without increasing the pressure on the shoulder joint and this is why it is often a good starting point for shoulder isometric exercises.
Once you are comfortable with these basic isometric exercises, a physical therapist will progress you to dynamic and then functional shoulder stretches. A physical therapist can also perform manual therapy, which involves using their hands to help move and stretch the shoulder in areas that are tight or restricted.
Another very effective isometric shoulder exercise involves walking your fingers up a wall or door jamb as you stand with your back against the wall. This exercise is great for improving shoulder flexion, which is the ability to bring the arm across your chest. It can be difficult to do this in the beginning, so your PT can show you how to use a chair or table to assist you with getting your arm up higher. Once you are able to perform this, then try it with your arm at a lower height. Then increase the elevation over time as you are able to do so. This will strengthen the muscles that are responsible for shoulder flexion and will also help prevent shoulder impingement or damage to the rotator cuff muscles. Each time you increase the elevation, be sure to warm up your shoulders by circling them both clockwise and counter-clockwise several times each before proceeding.