If you've had a separated shoulder, there's a good chance you're an athlete, you had a fall or you were involved in an accident. This very painful injury is caused by a direct blow to the outer edge of the shoulder.
According to a study published in 2013 by Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, shoulder separation injuries -- also called acromioclavicular joint separation injuries -- account for almost half of shoulder injuries sustained during contact sports.
Depending on the severity, these injuries might be treated with rest followed by progressive exercise. However, more severe cases require surgery. For the best chance of a full recovery, check with your doctor before doing any exercises.
Range of Motion
Range of motion exercises improve movement of your shoulder after a separation injury.
Wall-walking exercises increase shoulder flexion and abduction. Shoulder flexion is movement of your arm straight up in front of you. Wall-walking exercises will improve your ability to put items up on shelves. These exercises also improve abduction, or movement of your arm out to the side. These motions are important for daily tasks such as dressing and showering.
Stand facing a wall to begin shoulder flexion exercise. With your elbow bent, place your fingertips on the wall in front of you.
Walk your fingers up the wall as far as possible until you feel a strong stretch or pulling sensation in your shoulder. Do not stretch to the point of pain. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds.
Slowly walk your fingers back down the wall to the starting position. Repeat this exercise three times.
Stand with your affected side toward the wall to begin shoulder abduction exercise. Repeat the wall-walking exercise using the same technique used for shoulder flexion, but walking your arm up the wall away from your side.
Outward rotation of the shoulder is needed to put on a jacket or reach behind your head. The doorway exercise improves outward rotation -- also called external rotation.
Stand in an open doorway. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees and grasp one side of the door frame.
Keeping your upper arm against your side, slowly rotate your body away from the door frame until you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
Turn back toward the door frame until you reach the starting position. Repeat this stretch three times.
Inward rotation -- also called internal rotation -- is required if you want to reach behind your back. The towel stretch is a convenient exercise that improves inward rotation.
Hold one end of a towel in your non-injured hand. Reach up overhead and dangle the towel down the middle of your back. Grab the opposite end of the towel in your injured hand.
Slowly pull up with your non-injured arm until you feel a stretch in the opposite shoulder. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
Return to the starting position and repeat three times.
Once you have regained movement in your shoulder, strengthening exercises get you back to the activities you love.
Arm raises improve strength in the muscles that move your arm up in front of you and out to your side -- important movements for lifting laundry baskets, groceries and playing sports.
Stand up straight holding a dumbbell on your affected side. Keeping your elbow straight and palm facing the ground, lift your arm up in front of you until you reach shoulder-height. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds.
Slowly lower your arm back down to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.
Using the same technique, repeat this exercise lifting your arm out to your side. Rotate your arm until your thumb points toward the ceiling. Maintain this position when lifting your arm to the side to improve the position of the ball in the socket of your shoulder.
Rotation exercises can be performed with a dumbbell in a lying down position.
Lie on your back holding a dumbbell. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Keeping your upper arm next to your body, lower your forearm until it rests on the ground. This is the starting position for inward rotation.
Lift your forearm from the ground, rotating your arm inward until your forearm touches your belly. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly lower back down to the starting position.
Repeat this exercise 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.
Roll onto your unaffected side to perform outward rotation. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees and rest your forearm against your belly.
Keeping your upper arm next to your body, lift your forearm until the weight is pointed toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times and work up to three sets in a row.
- Journal of Chiropractic Medicine: Conservative Management of a Type III Acromioclavicular Separation: A Case Report and 10-Year Follow-Up
- Massachusetts General Hospital: Shoulder Separation and Acromioclavicular Joint Injury
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: Department of Rehabilitative Services: Acromioclavicular Joint Separation
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Sore Shoulder Exercise Guide
- Massachusetts General Hospital: Shoulder Stretching Exercises
- Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine: Acromioclavicular Joint Dislocations
- Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine: Acromioclavicular Joint Separations