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What are the Different Shoulder Rehabilitation Exercises?

By Marty Paule
Updated May 17, 2024
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Shoulder rehabilitation exercises are intended to strengthen shoulder muscles and joints when recovering from injuries, as well as to prevent future shoulder problems. Exercises should only be performed if they do not increase or create pain. Discuss your exercise regimen with your physical therapist, doctor, or chiropractor, and, if necessary, ask him or her to demonstrate the correct techniques for shoulder rehabilitation exercises. There are also numerous video demonstrations available online to check the exercise forms.

Begin with basic exercises, and when they become easier to perform, move on to intermediate, then advanced exercises. Make them a part of a daily regimen, doing them three times a day unless advised otherwise. Take time to complete each one as rushing through can actually cause new injuries.

Basic shoulder rehabilitation exercises include the shoulder blade shrug and the shoulder blade squeeze. The shrug is performed standing with the back and neck straight and arms slightly away from the body with palms facing forward. Bring the shoulder up to as close to the ear as possible, and then back down again. The shoulder blade squeeze, another basic exercise, can be done standing or sitting. Tuck in the chin, place the shoulders back from their normal position, then squeeze the shoulder blades as closely together as possible for five seconds. Release the squeeze, and repeat.

Intermediate shoulder rehabilitation exercises using an elastic resistance band include internal and external rotations of the shoulder by exerting force against the band. Consult an illustration or video of these exercises to ensure that you use the proper technique. Other intermediate exercises done with resistance bands include abduction, pull-downs, plus forward, and side-elevation exercises. Traditional push-ups are another intermediate exercise that can be be performed with the knees on the floor, if necessary. Remember to only perform these exercises if they do not cause or create pain and do them one to three times per week.

Advanced exercises should also be performed one to three times weekly. Internal and external rotations of the shoulder at 90 degrees using a resistance band should be done slowly, holding the position of greatest extension briefly before gradually lessening the resistance. Dumbbell and shoulder presses can be performed while lying on the back on a weight bench or exercise ball. If there is access to a rowing machine with seat, the seated row can be performed by sitting straight and pulling the handle toward the chest while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Lat pull-downs performed on the machine designed for that exercise is one of the most effective advanced shoulder rehabilitation exercises.

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