Injured Shoulder? Best Early Exercises

So you have an injured shoulder. AC joint sprain? Shoulder popped out? Tore your rotator cuff? Regardless of what you did, this guide will help you manage your injury in the early stages.

Best Exercises For A Hurt Shoulder

  1. Pendulum swings
  2. Assisted shoulder flexion and abduction
  3. Rotator cuff isometrics

These exercises are going to help you restore any lost motion in your shoulder as well as get some of the smaller muscles get turned back on.

#1. Pendulum Swings For Your Injured Shoulder

This is one of the best, if not the best exercises for reducing shoulder pain after any injury. Find any object you can hold onto and lean forward (chair, couch, table etc).

  • I prescribe these for time instead of reps
  • Perform this for 5 minutes in a single session
  • Repeat as many times a day as needed
  • For additional shoulder traction and more pain relief, place a small weight in the hand

#2. Assisted Shoulder Flexion And Abduction For An Injured Shoulder

Shoulder flexion and abduction (moving the arm forward and then away from the body) are the 2 most common lost motions in the shoulder after an injury. This is not going to be a static stretch, rather moving the shoulder through a pain free arc to restore full ROM.

  • Use whatever you have access to (cane, baseball bat, golf club)
  • The injured hand rests on top
  • Uninjured side applies all the force to the move the shoulder
  • Find the painful point in the range and sit there for 1 second
  • Repeat over and over and the pain free motion will improve
  • Complete 50 reps per side
  • Complete 2x a day as long as needed

    #3. Rotator Cuff Isometrics

    Isometrics are the single best rehab early on in the rehab phase (source). They strengthen the muscle without lengthening or shortening of the muscle. This allows the exercise to be very tolerable early on as well as having 0 risk of damaging the muscle. They are excellent for an injured shoulder.

    • Find a doorway
    • Keep elbow tucked in
    • Press the hand into the wall
    • Hold for 10 seconds, complete 10 reps
    • Form check. Keep your off hand on the trap of the working side. It should be relaxed. If not, apply less force
    • The trap should NOT be active here

    Repeat these exercises as long as needed to reduce pain and restore motion to the hurt shoulder. This may take longer pending the injured tissue and the injury severity. Main takeaway is you need to move your shoulder after hurting it and load it as much as tolerable

    Now that you have restored most normal function to your hurt shoulder, you can begin to improve the stability/strength. Here is a good next step (link)