The Best Shoulder Dislocation Exercises for Recovery

Exercise is a crucial part of the recovery process after suffering a shoulder dislocation. A shoulder dislocation often needs a period of immobile to let the tissues around the shoulder heal and have some stability again. In severe cases that exhibit tears or instability, surgery may be the only option. If you want the best possible outcome, start doing shoulder exercises as soon as you can. Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of exercise and how to perform a variety of exercises after a shoulder dislocation.

Post-Dislocated Shoulder Movement Benefits
After a shoulder dislocation, it is important to find the right balance of treatment. To start, the shoulder will be swollen and quite painful as a result of stretching the joint capsule, muscles, and ligaments too far. Plus, it won't feel stable. In order to allow the shoulder time to heal, some downtime is required. Although it will not be as stable as before, it will be much better than if you do nothing. Too much rest can actually make your stiffness worse and increase your risk of a frozen shoulder. The following are a few of the major advantages of shoulder motion when the time is appropriate, depending on the severity and whether or not you have surgery.

  • Increased circulation to the upper arm to promote healing
  • Decreased shoulder pain and swelling
  • Reduced risk of excessive stiffness
  • Restoration of strength in the shoulder muscles
  • Decrease in shoulder instability
  • Increased confidence in your shoulder
  • Quicker to return to the previous level of activity
  • Improved quality of life after a shoulder injury

When should you start exercising?
The frequency of your treatments will be based on the severity of your injury and symptoms. With moderate to severe cases, it’s important that your doctor clears you before starting any exercise. If you treat your shoulder conservatively, you should start feeling better in a few days or weeks once the discomfort has begun to decrease.

Depending on the instability of your shoulder, your surgeon will give you a personalized protocol to follow post-surgery. A physical therapist can help you gradually regain shoulder range of motion starting around 3 to 4 weeks after surgery (while still wearing the sling most of the day).

  • Until approximately 6 weeks after surgery, patients should avoid overhead reaching and rotation of the shoulder. After that point, comfort is the main concern.
  • Until your shoulder has healed entirely, avoid anything that is too strenuous or causes pain. With time and healing, this will become possible again. 

Best Shoulder Dislocation Exercises
Exercises will be a passive range of motion and a slow progression to more active (and larger) ranges as tissues heal and your pain threshold increases. Exercises that follow help to strengthen the muscles in your shoulders and improve coordination. These exercises also allow for a functional range of motion.

1. Shoulder Pendulums
This simple exercise is the first step to regaining mobility in your shoulder after being cleared by a doctor. The goal of this unit is to help you get your shoulder used to moving without causing suffering, while also promoting relaxation and reducing stiffness.

  • Remove your shoulder sling.
  • Let your hands dangle at your side in a relaxed position.
  • Place yourself close to a chair or counter.
  • To do this small workout, you will need to be in a staggered lunge position and lean your trunk forward at about 45 degrees or more.
  • Keep your arm at a rest and dangle it softly as you begin to sway and shift your weight forward and back.
  • As you shift back and forth, your arm should follow the movement of your entire body.
  • The secret is to keep the shoulder relaxed so that the movement is entirely passive and driven by your trunk motion.
  • To shift side to side or even in a circle, you may alter the position of your legs to a wider stance.
  • Perform this exercise for 1-2 minutes per direction that you can tolerate

2. Shoulder Pulley
Shoulder rolls are a great way to warm up before doing other exercises as they help loosen up all muscles around the shoulder area including those in the neck and upper back region. To do this exercise, simply sit or stand tall with shoulders relaxed down away from ears then roll shoulders backward 10 times then forwards 10 times. Make sure to keep the head aligned with the spine throughout the entire movement to avoid neck strain. If you experience any pain during these exercises, stop immediately and consult a physiotherapist or doctor.

RangeMaster PullEasy Shoulder Pulley with Patient Guide

  • Close the top of your pulley system into a door to secure it.
  • You can stand or place a chair beneath the pulley with the back of the chair touching the door, depending on your height and the door frame.
  • With one hand on each handle, point your palms either down to the floor or at each other, depending on what is more comfortable.
  • Maintain good posture with your neck relaxed.
  • Use your non-injured hand to guide your shoulder with the injury up above your head.
  • Start with a goal of shoulder height and work your way up to the complete range of motion while remaining calm and pain-free.
  • At the end of your repetitions, hold the stretch for 5 to 10 seconds before returning to the starting position.
  • For 2-3 sets, repeat this process 10 times.

3. Isometric Shoulder Abduction
Isometric exercise is defined as a form of exercise that targets a single muscle group without requiring actual movement. If you're starting to recover from a dislocated shoulder, this is the perfect method since you can keep local muscles active while still resting in a sling. This way, you can transition to more active motion easily when you're ready.

  • Face a wall with your injured arm resting on it and touching the surface.
  • For cushioning, place a tiny pillow or folded towel between your elbow and the wall.
  • Push your elbow into the wall as if you're going to raise your arm straight up to the side.
  • Apply pressure to the point of resistance without pain or tension in the neck and hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat this 10 times for 2-3 sets.
  • You may also push straight forward while placing your fist on the wall and turning and facing the wall to improve flexion.
  • Over time, increase the ranges of motion your shoulder can do.

4. Isometric Shoulder Rotation
If you have a weak shoulder or are not allowed the full range of motion, isometric exercises for rotation are a great starting point. As you practice, your pressure will increase and you'll be able to move on to resistance bands once you've been shown how to use your arm more actively. Some of the most important rotator cuff muscles are targeted by these fundamental exercises.

  • Sit or stand in a comfortable posture
  • Bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle and keep your injured arm at your side.
  • If necessary, you can insert a small pillow or towel in the space between your side and elbow for support.
  • Take your other hand and grip the outside of your injured hand to create resistance, then rotate outward.
  • Pull the injured hand towards your belly button with the opposite hand.
  • Use a comfortable amount of pressure, enough to keep the neck relaxed, for 5 seconds.
  • For 2-3 sets, repeat this 10 times.
  • Additionally, you may switch directions to address internal rotation as well.

If you've had surgery, be sure to discuss any limits on muscular usage with your sports medicine doctor. For example, surgery patients who have anterior shoulder dislocation (the most common type) often experience external rotation restrictions for the first 4 to 6 weeks.

5. Shoulder Flexion on Hands and Knees
After you've been cleared to expand your shoulder range of motion, there are many different methods outside of using a pulley to stretch your shoulders. The purpose of this movement is to promote shoulder flexion without activating the muscles in the arms, which could lead to discomfort.

  • Begin in a kneeling position with your hands directly under the shoulders.
  • Keeps your hands on the floor as you move your butt backward toward your heels.
  • This move stretches the shoulders and improves flexibility. Move as far as is comfortable and hold for 10+ seconds.
  • For best results, repeat this movement 10 times for 2 to 3 sets.
  • Bring your chest closer to the ground to increase your range of motion as tolerated.
  • If you find it difficult to tolerate this position, you can also try lying on your back with a wand.

These are all excellent exercises to start rehabilitation in the first few weeks. Ultimately, you will want to increase the difficulty of your movements. Shoulder rotations should go through the entire range of motion, and exercises (rows, biceps curls, triceps curls, side raises) that use resistance or weighted equipment should be included. Scapular activities (prone supermans, planks) might also be utilized.

Consult a Physical Therapist
As you go through the process of recovering from a shoulder injury, you will likely have questions or feel uncertain about your course of action. This is where physical therapy scheduling may make a significant difference. They will do an in-depth assessment to help you stay on track and heal while minimizing pain. They may also aid in the diagnosis and treatment of any underlying shortcomings or imbalances that might lead to recurring shoulder problems or the development of persistent dislocations. They will give you the confidence you need to make a full recovery, both before and after surgery.

It's critical to begin shoulder exercises as soon as your shoulder has recovered from a dislocation. With this method, you will have a quicker and more complete recovery with fewer chances of issues later on. The main objective is to restore shoulder function while avoiding discomfort so that you may get back to your daily routine without any hitches, whether it's brushing your hair or returning to contact sports.

If you experience worsening symptoms or continual sensations of instability in your shoulder, talk to your healthcare provider for further medical advice.