The shoulder is considered one of the most mobile joints in the body, but a fall, accident, trauma or disease can cause pain, weakness, numbness, instability and sometimes disability. The first line of treatment for shoulder problems include rest, immobilization, ice application, NSAIDs and steroid injections. When these conservative treatments do not relieve symptoms and in cases of severe injuries, your doctor will suggest surgical treatment.
After any injury or surgery to your shoulder, a rehabilitation program will help you get back to your daily activities. A well-structured program will help you return to sports and other activities and enjoy a more active and healthy lifestyle. Rehabilitation programs provide a wide range of exercises that are safe and effective for your particular shoulder condition and are best performed under the supervision of your doctor or physical therapist. These programs include exercises to improve your strength, flexibility and range of motion, and are targeted at your injured muscles. Rehabilitation programs last for approximately 4 to 6 weeks; however, you may have to continue the exercises longer to maintain your shoulder health.
Some of the exercises include:
- Pendulum: Lean forward and place one hand on a flat surface for support. Let the other hand loose and gently swing it back and forth, side to side or in a circular motion. Repeat with the other hand.
- Cross over arm stretch: Relax your shoulders and pull your arm across your chest with the support of your other hand. Hold for about 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat the same with the other hand.
- Sleeper stretch: Lie on your side on a flat surface with your head on a pillow and your affected shoulder under you. Bend your elbow with your palm towards the ceiling. Use your other arm to flatten your arm on the floor, in line with your body, until you feel a stretch at the back of the affected shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and then relax.
- Elbow flexion: Stand upright with your weight equally distributed on both feet. Hold equal weights in both hands. Keep your elbow close to your sides and slowly bring the weight up towards your shoulders. Hold for 2 seconds, then slowly return to your start position. Repeat 3 sets of 8.
- Elbow extension: Stand tall so that your weight is evenly distributed on both your feet. Hold equal weights in both your hands. Raise your arm and bend your elbow behind your head. Support your hand with your opposite hand. Slowly straighten the elbow, bringing the weight above your head. Hold for 2 seconds and repeat.
- Internal and external rotation: Lie on your back. Extend your arm straight out and bent at your elbow such that your fingers point to the ceiling. Tilt your elbow forward to lie flat on the ground in line with your body. Lift and tilt it behind, forming an arc of 180 degrees.
- Scapula setting: Lie on your stomach with arms at the side. You can place a pillow below your forehead for comfort. Lift your shoulder off the ground, bringing your shoulder blades together and keeping your back as low as possible. Gently ease about halfway off this position and hold for 10 seconds. Relax and repeat the exercise 10 times.
Before performing any of these exercises, it very important to first warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of walking or stationary biking. This will help loosen stiff muscles and reduce your risk of injuries. Start with stretching exercises, followed by strengthening exercises, and end with stretching exercises. You should not feel pain while exercising. Talk to your physical therapist if you do. It is very important to perform these exercises correctly to get the best results and avoid injuries.