The deltoid is one of the primary shoulder movers, so injuring the muscle can be extremely debilitating, affecting your ability to execute tasks that you normally take for granted, such as lifting your arm or reaching overhead. After visiting your doctor to determine the extent of the injury, she's likely to consult a physical therapist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan, detailing steps you can take at home to fully recover as quickly as possible. Go back to your doctor if you suffer any setbacks.
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The acronym R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. These are the interventions you should take during the first 48 to 72 hours immediately after suffering a deltoid injury. Rest the affected arm as much as possible during this phase of the rehabilitation process. Apply an ice or cold pack intermittently -- 20 minutes every hour or so -- and wrap your shoulder in an elastic compression wrap to minimize swelling. You also can take medications at your doctor's direction, if desired, to help alleviate pain.
Perform dynamic and static stretching exercises to restore your flexibility and range of motion after 48 to 72 hours. After a 5- to 15-minute warm-up, perform arm circles and the scissor exercise, which involves crossing your arms in front of your chest and spreading them out repeatedly, to stretch the deltoids dynamically. Next, extend your arms behind your back with your fingers interlocked to stretch the anterior deltoid, and pull one arm at a time across your chest with the opposite arm to stretch the middle and posterior deltoid, holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Do the stretches at least once every day.
Begin performing isometric exercises in conjunction with the range-of-motion exercises, particularly if moving your shoulder through normal ranges of motion is painful. These exercises involve pressing against an immobile object for five seconds or more to initiate a static muscle contraction. Stand facing a wall and press the thumb side of your hand into it to work the anterior deltoid; stand sideways with your palm facing your hip and press the back of your hand into a wall to target the middle deltoid; and stand facing away from a wall and press the little-finger side of your hand into it to work the posterior deltoid. Move closer to or farther away from the wall to work the muscles at various arm angles.
Traditional strengthening exercises that target the deltoid involve moving your arm through normal ranges of motion against external resistance. Replace the isometric exercises with these once moving your arm isn't painful. The front raise, lateral raise and reverse raise are examples of exercises that target the anterior, middle and posterior deltoid, respectively. Use a resistance band or light dumbbells and complete two to three sets of at least 12 repetitions every day at first, then increase the weight and decrease the number of repetitions per set progressively, allowing at least one day of rest between training sessions.