What Should I Expect from Shoulder Rehab?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Shoulder rehab is a course of medical treatment which is designed to help someone recover motion in his or her shoulder. It may be used to facilitate recovery from surgery, accidents, and other problems, and to help a patient adjust if the shoulder cannot fully recover. The goal of shoulder rehab is usually to restore as much function and range of motion as possible while helping the patient manage pain and other problems which may be associated with the damage to the shoulder.

When a patient starts shoulder rehab, a physical therapist will meet with the patient to conduct an examination and interview the patient. The therapist will also usually review the patient's chart and talk to the patient's caregivers about the specifics of the situation to learn more about the injury to the shoulder. During the examination, the physical therapist will identify areas which need work, and talk with the patient about goals.

Keeping goals in mind, the physical therapist will develop a rehabilitation program which is designed to help the patient get stronger. The program usually includes regular sessions in a rehabilitation facility which can include using weights under direction from a physical therapist, performing stretches, and working in environments like a pool to stretch and tone the muscles without forcing them to bear weight.


Shoulder rehab can also include massage to free the shoulder muscles and ease pain and tension, along with pain management through medications, nerve blocks, and other measures. Since rehabilitation is more successful when it is started early, shoulder rehab can start as soon as a primary doctor or surgeon gives the OK, which means that the patient may still be experiencing pain and other symptoms which need to be managed during the course of the rehabilitation.

Tools like bracing and slings can be used to support the shoulder during the early stages of shoulder rehab to prevent further injury. The patient is also encouraged to perform exercises and do other work at home to improve the condition of the shoulder. This work is important, because it keeps the shoulder moving, stretching, and working even when the patient is not in a guided rehabilitation session.

The length of time spent in shoulder rehabilitation varies, depending on the original condition of the shoulder, how hard the patient works, and how well the healing progresses. Some people only need a few weeks, while others may require months of work.



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