Exercises to Strengthen Shoulder Muscles After Surgery

As the most flexible joint in your body, your shoulder can rotate your arms in front, to the side, behind and above your body. Unfortunately, the flexibility of the shoulder also makes it prone to dislocation or other injury. Shoulder rehabilitation exercises help increase flexibility, relieve pain and prevent future injuries. Strengthen shoulder muscles following surgery with range-of-motion movements followed by resistance exercises and training. Rehabilitation exercises should be challenging as you work to regain strength in your shoulder muscles. Consult a physical therapist or orthopaedic surgeon prior to engaging in an exercise program after surgery.

A woman on an chest press machine with a trainer. (Image: UberImages/iStock/Getty Images)


According to FamilyDoctor.org, simple range-of-motion exercises are the primary step in rehabilitating and strengthening a shoulder. Try pendulum swings as a warm-up exercise for your shoulder. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a sturdy chair or edge of table with your uninjured arm. Lean forward, bending at the hips, allowing your injured arm to dangle down to the floor. Relax your shoulder and slowly swing your arm in a small circle, gradually make the circle larger with each rotation. Do 20 circles clockwise, then 20 circles counterclockwise. Rest and repeat the exercise. Perform this exercise several times a day.


Incorporate stretching into your rehabilitation routine as soon as possible following surgery to avoid muscle weakness and stiffness. Perform stretches gently during the first couple of weeks; never force a stretch. Do several stretches a day, and stop if you experience pain in your shoulder. For a gentle shoulder stretch, grab your injured arm just above the elbow and bring it across your body. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat as often as necessary. Stand in a doorway with the hand of your injured arm touching the top of the doorway. Lean forward slightly, stretching the front of your shoulder. Start by holding the stretch for five seconds. Increase the duration of the stretch as flexibility increases. Repeat several times a day.


As shoulder strength increases, your physical therapist may add resistance exercises to your rehabilitation program. Start by using a resistance band before doing exercises with free weights. Attach the band to a door or exercise machine. Position yourself with your injured arm away from the door or machine. Grip the handle of the band with the hand of the injured arm, and slowly pull the band away from your body with your elbow straight. Do five to 10 repetitions. Turn to face the door or machine, keeping the band in the hand of the injured arm. Keep your arm straight and gently pull the handle behind you. Do five to 10 repetitions, and then turn so that the machine or door is behind you. With the handle in the same hand, keep your arm straight and gently pull the handle forward. Start with one set of five to 10 repetitions. Increase repetitions and sets as you progress.

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