Recovering from Shoulder Surgery: Comprehensive Exercise Guide

17 April 2020

Regular light exercise focused on restoring mobility, flexibility and strength allows people to gradually return to a full and active life after shoulder surgery.

Mr Soong Chua is an accomplished orthopaedic surgeon based in Melbourne’s east. He performs specialist shoulder surgery in Heidelberg, Box Hill and East Melbourne.

This guide to shoulder rehabilitation exercises includes 10 of Mr Chua’s commonly recommended activities for East Melbourne shoulder surgery patients.

Assisted exercises

Use a table or other stable support to perform these exercises as advised by your shoulder surgeon. Repeat the exercises 5-10 times per sessions, 3 sessions a day during rehabilitation.

Shoulder Rotation

mr soong chua melbourne shoulder surgeon
  • Sit with the elbow of the affected arm on a table, with forearm flat and trunk straight
  • Keeping the elbow in place, slowly rotate away from the body and back to starting point
  • Rotate in towards body and back to starting point

Shoulder Internal Rotation

shoulder orthopaedic surgeon melbourne shoulder exercises
  • Use a towel, light stick or cane to complete this exercise
  • Hold the item vertical behind you with the unaffected arm behind your head and affected arm in line with your lower back
  • Use the unaffected arm to gently pull the other hand across your back to the other side, and back to the starting point

Front elevation

front elevation exercise melboure shoulder surgery
  • Sit in a chair or lie flat on your back
  • Join hands together and lift them overhead, keeping arms straight
  • Stop when you feel discomfort or pain, gently lowering arms
  • Slowly increase range over time

Unassisted exercises

These more active exercises will start to strengthen your shoulder after surgery and improve flexibility in the joint. Most exercises are performed 5-10 times in 3 daily sessions, with direction from your shoulder surgeon.

Shoulder front elevation

shoulder front elevation
  • Raise affected arm upwards to point at the ceiling
  • Keep arm straight with the thumb leading as shown
  • Use a mirror to make sure your shoulder blade remains in place
  • Hold for 10 seconds then slowly lower

Shoulder abduction

shoulder surgeon melbourne
  • Raise arm straight out to the side (abduction means moving away from the body’s midline)
  • Use a mirror to ensure shoulder stays in place
  • Keep your body static as shown; only the arm should move

Finger walk

finger walk shoulder exercise
  • Start with fingers on a wall or door frame
  • Keeping arm straight, “crawl” up the wall with your fingers as shown
  • Hold for 20 seconds or until painful
  • Slowly lower

Isometric exercises

Isometric exercises contract muscles without any visible movement to the joint (isotonic exercises involve movement). Repeat these exercises 8-10 times per session, 3 sessions a day for improved strength and mobility after shoulder surgery.

Shoulder external rotation

isometric shoulder exercised shoulder external rotation
  • Stand next to a wall with affected arm closest
  • Bend affected arm at the elbow and place the back of your hand on the wall as shown
  • Push your hand into the wall without moving your body
  • Hold for 5 seconds or until painful then slowly release

Shoulder internal rotation

shoulder internal rotation assisted
  • Stand facing a corner of a wall or door frame lined up to affected shoulder
  • Bend affected arm at the elbow and place hand on the wall or frame as shown
  • Push your palm into the wall and hold for 5 seconds then slowly release

Shoulder extension

shoulder extension
  • Stand with your back flat against a wall
  • Straighten affected arm and push your palm into the wall as shown
  • Hold for 5 seconds then slowly release

Strengthening exercise

Very lightly weighted exercise is great for shoulder conditioning. You can perform this exercise 3 times a day, 10 repetitions per set. Use a light dumbbell, water bottle, or resistance band as shown by your shoulder surgeon.

Weighted internal shoulder rotation

weighted internal shoulder rotation
  1. Lie on your affected side with arm bent at the elbow
  2. Raise a light weight towards your stomach, keeping the shoulder in place as shown
  3. Lower to the floor and repeat

Of course, everyone is different. It’s important to consult your shoulder surgeon before trying these exercises to ensure they are safe – and always stick within your limits when healing from a shoulder replacement.

Contact Mr Soong Chua to enquire about shoulder surgery in East Melbourne, Box Hill and Heidelberg, or to learn more about rehabilitation after shoulder surgery.

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