Orthopedic Associates' Blog


Orthopedic Associates' Blog

Exercises to Help You Recover from Shoulder Surgery
Exercises to Help You Recover from Shoulder Surgery

By: Dr. Pitts


Because your shoulder can move in multiple directions, it is a complicated joint that helps you perform almost all daily activities. Think about the multiple times per day you reach for something, eat or brush your teeth, get dressed or give a friend a high five. All these activities and more involve your shoulder joint, so when it’s not working right it can be debilitating.

If you have shoulder surgery, you can expect your recovery time to be anywhere from six months to a year. Recovery from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, in which the doctor operates through a small incision, the recovery process is usually less. However, your recovery time can vary greatly depending on the type of injury, type of surgery and how healthy you were before surgery. 

After a period of post-operative care and immobilization to allow for recovery, you should begin to work with a physical therapist to perform gentle, assisted exercises. This activity will help you regain movement and range of motion in your shoulder while it is still actively healing. 

Passive Range of Motion Exercise

To begin, your physical therapists will move your arm without your help. This is described as a “passive range of motion” because someone else is causing your arm to move. Although you might find this uninteresting and slow, this first phase of post-operative exercise is critical for assessing your progress. It is important that you do not attempt to move past the ranges on your own. 

Active and Assisted Range of Motion Exercise

At the point when you’re ready to start moving your shoulder on your own, your physical therapist may begin to integrate simple self-conducted exercises into your recovery regimen. One such exercise requires that you allow the arm of your injured shoulder to dangle while you lean forward and place the hand of your healthy arm/shoulder on a table. You will hold a ball or towel in your hand and gently move your arm in a clockwise and counterclockwise pattern like a pendulum. During this exercise, you should allow your shoulder to relax with the movement.

Other exercises in this phase can be performed in a lying down or seated position. 

Active Range of Motion Exercises

As long as your recovery is progressing, your doctor will likely clear you for unassisted shoulder exercise after 8-10 weeks. Pace yourself and pay attention to any pain you feel. Some soreness is to be expected, but sharp pain is not acceptable. Remember that you’re still recovering and don’t push so hard that you injure yourself. In these exercises, which may include tossing a ball or lifting light objects and turning your arm, you will notice that your range of motion will begin to improve.

Resistive Exercise

After about 3 months, your doctor or physical therapist will check to see if you have progressed to being able to perform light resisted exercises. Be sure not to make the common mistake of adding too much weight too soon or you risk a setback. In these exercises, your physical therapist will start to integrate resistance bands and light hand weights to allow you to gradually strengthen your shoulder. Pay careful attention to your physical therapist and follow the prescribed levels of resistance, weight and repetitions to build strength without doing further damage.

As with all exercise, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any activity and your physical therapist to ensure you’re doing the appropriate exercises at the best phases of your recovery.

To learn more about recovering from shoulder surgery and for keeping your shoulders healthy and free of pain, contact the experts at Orthopedic Associates!

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