Your shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body, but it's also more likely to be injured. A sprained shoulder can take several weeks to improve, but there are exercises you can do to maintain movement and strength while you are waiting for it to heal.
Assisted Range of Motion Exercises
Moving a sprained shoulder can be painful. Perform range of motion exercises with assistance from your other arm and using a cane or broomstick.
Lie on your back on a firm surface. Hold the stick at your hips with your hands approximately shoulder-width apart.
Keeping your elbows straight, lift your arms up and over your head, as far as possible without pain. Your non-injured arm should be doing the majority of the work. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, relax and repeat 10 times.
Sit up straight and hold the stick as previous. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and keep your upper arms next to your body throughout this exercise.
Slowly push the stick toward your injured arm to rotate your forearm away from your body. Keep your upper arm next to your body throughout this movement. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, relax and repeat 10 times.
Hold the stick horizontally behind your back. Lift your arms behind you as far as possible, keeping your elbows straight. Hold 2 to 3 seconds, relax and repeat 10 times.
Keeping the stick behind your back, pull it out to the side using your non-injured arm to move the painful arm across your back. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, relax and repeat 10 times.
Strengthening exercises can increase pain with a sprained shoulder -- particularly if you lift your arm out in front of you or out to the side. Perform dumbbell exercises lying down to protect your shoulder.
Lie on your non-injured side; for example, to strengthen your right arm, lie on your left side. Hold the dumbbell in your right hand and bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Keep your upper arm next to your body and rest your right forearm on your belly.
Rotate your right forearm away from your body until your hand is pointed toward the ceiling. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times and work up to three sets in a row.
Lie on your back to strengthen muscles that rotate your shoulder in toward your body. Hold the dumbbell in your right hand and bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Keep your upper arm next to your body throughout this exercise.
Rotate your forearm away from you and rest it on the ground. This is the starting position.
Rotate your forearm in toward your belly and stop when your hand is pointed toward the ceiling. Hold 2 to 3 seconds, relax and repeat 10 times.
Isometric exercises strengthen muscles that lift your arm without actually moving your shoulder. Use a pillow to cushion your arm during these exercises.
Stand facing a wall and bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Make a loose fist. Place the pillow against the wall and hold it in place with your fist.
Gently press your fist straight into the pillow until you feel tightening in the muscles at the front of your shoulder. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then relax. Do not lean forward during this movement. Repeat 10 times and work up to three sets in a row.
Stand with your side facing the wall, keeping your elbow bent to 90 degrees. With the pillow between your elbow and the wall, gently push your elbow away from your side until you feel tightening in the muscles on the side of your shoulder. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then relax. Work up to three sets of 10.
- American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Conditioning Program
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Sore Shoulder Exercise Guide
- Oxford Shoulder & Elbow Clinic: Shoulder Impingement
- Best Practice & Research: Clinical Rheumatology: Shoulder Disorders and Occupation
- BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders: Predicting Response to Physiotherapy Treatment for Musculoskeletal Shoulder Pain: A Systematic Review
- IMG Physical Therapy: Shoulder Isometrics Home Exercise Sheet