Separated Shoulder Rehab Exercises

A separated shoulder can range in severity and will require different methods of treatment. In some cases separated shoulder exercises will be doctor's orders.

A separated shoulder can range in severity and will require different methods of treatment. Credit: Hero Images/Hero Images/GettyImages

Separated Shoulder Causes

According to Michigan Medicine, a separation of the shoulder occurs when the outer end of the collarbone, the clavicle, separates from the end of the shoulder blade, the acromion. The meeting of these bones forms the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. This separation happens due to torn ligaments. Causes include:

  • Blow to a shoulder
  • Fall onto a shoulder or outstretched arm

If the force of the fall is bad enough, says Massachusetts General Hospital, ligaments secured under the clavicle are torn. This ultimately results in the separation of the collarbone and shoulder blade.

Signs of a Separated Shoulder

Before beginning shoulder rehab, you'll want to confirm with your healthcare specialist that you do, in fact, have a separated shoulder. Symptoms, according to Cleveland Clinic, include:

  • A bump on the top of your shoulder toward the end of your collarbone (this is due to torn ligaments causing your shoulder blade to move downward with the weight of your arm, thus causing the end of the collarbone to stick out.)
  • Pain at the topmost part of your shoulder.

A diagnosis of a separated shoulder can be made through an assessment of symptoms, a physical examination, imaging tests (x-rays, ultrasound and MRI) and a review of your medical history.

Read more: Exercises for Shoulder Popping

Separated Shoulder Treatments

Cleveland Clinic explains that most people will recover from a separated shoulder within two to 12 weeks without surgery. To help the recovery process along, those with a separated shoulder can use ice packs, as well as pain medicine (ibuprofen, aspirin), a sling, avoidance of heavy lifting and separated shoulder exercises from a physical therapy program prescribed by a doctor.

Surgery may be required for more serious cases. A surgery might entail shaving the end of the collarbone to prevent it from chafing against the shoulder blade and reattaching torn ligaments under the collarbone.

Read more: Ultimate Back & Shoulder Workouts

Separated Shoulder Exercises

A doctor or physical therapist can prescribe certain separated shoulder exercises for rehabilitation. Alberta Health Services lays out exercise possibilities:

Move 1: Shoulder Rolls

  1. Sit or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Roll your shoulders up, back and down, making circles.
  3. Repeat two to four times.

Move 2: Neck Rotation

  1. Sitting or standing upright, turn your head to one side and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  2. Turn it to the other side and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  3. Repeat this back-and-forth motion two to four times.

Move 3: Shoulder Blade Squeezes

  1. Stand with your arms by your sides and pinch your shoulder blades together.
  2. Hold six seconds then repeat 8 to 12 times.

Move 4: Shoulder Extension

  1. While standing, grip a thin bar with both hands behind your back.
  2. Your hands should be positioned at the same width as your shoulders, your palms facing away from the body.
  3. Move the bar backward away from your body, as far as you can go.
  4. Hold for about six seconds and repeat 8 to 12 times.

Move 5: Goal Post Stretch

  1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent.
  2. Hold a bar above your chest, hands wide apart, elbows on the floor, palms facing forward.
  3. Still gripping the bar, stretch your arms back behind your head and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat two to four times.
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