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Codman Shoulder Exercises

author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
Codman Shoulder Exercises
Woman wearing sling Photo Credit 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images

Codman shoulder exercises -- more commonly called pendulum exercises -- are part of many rehab protocols after shoulder surgery. These exercises are named after E. Amory Codman, a prominent 19th-century physician who made significant contributions to orthopedic medicine in the area of shoulder injury. Codman shoulder exercises allow your shoulder joint to move without compromising the structures that were repaired during surgery.


After surgery, your shoulder will likely be immobilized in a sling for several weeks. During this time, connective tissue in your shoulder may tighten and shorten, leading to problems with shoulder movement later in the healing process. Codman exercises decrease pain, circulate nutrients, improve blood flow and allow early, controlled movement of your shoulder joint. This reduces your risk of contractures -- permanent tightening of structures in your shoulder joint that impact your ability to move, according to a 2006 analysis in "North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy."


Codman exercises allow your shoulder joint to move without using the muscles in your shoulder. These exercises are performed in a bent-over position with your injured arm dangling toward the floor. Body weight is supported by resting your opposite arm on a firm surface. Knees are slightly bent and feet staggered, shoulder-width apart.


Correct technique is important with Codman exercises, as using your muscles to move your arm may damage structures that were repaired during surgery. These exercises use momentum produced by your body to move your shoulder joint. Bend your knees and shift your weight to your front leg, then back, allowing your arm to swing in the same directions. Using the same technique, alternately shift your weight between your right and left legs, allowing your arm to swing from side to side. These exercises are also performed in counterclockwise and clockwise circular motions. Typically these exercises are performed several times per day, for a set number repetitions or minutes, such as 20 times in a row or 5 minutes at a time.


Although not originally designed as an active shoulder exercise, your doctor or physical therapist may instruct you to perform Codman exercises using your shoulder muscles to produce the movement, rather than relying on momentum from your body. This allows your joint to move, without the resistance of gravity -- such as lifting your arm up in a standing position. If recommended by your health-care provider, Codman exercises may also be performed with a weight in your hand to increase the space between the bones in your shoulder joint during these movements. Always follow the directions of your physician or therapist to avoid further injury.

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