Shoulder injuries are one of the most common types of orthopedic injuries among people of all ages and activity levels. In this article, we will outline some common shoulder injuries, why physical therapy is important to recovery and some at home exercises to help you heal!
Types of Shoulder Conditions
Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator Cuff injuries are frequently seen in athletes and skilled laborers who use repetitive movements in their jobs. Athletic movements like frequently reach overhead (basketball) or repeated arm swinging over the shoulder (baseball) are typical causes for a Rotator Cuff injury. These injuries can also occur from every day accidents like slip-and-falls and lifting objects that are too heavy. The Rotator Cuff itself is a collection of tendons and muscles that add stability to the shoulder. Injuries can either cause these muscles and tendons or partially tear, or tear completely.
It’s no surprise that Physical Therapy would be recommended after Shoulder Replacement Surgery. Shoulder Replacements usually take place in patients with severe arthritis of the shoulder. All or part of the shoulder joint is removed and replaced with artificial parts, reducing pain and increasing range of motion over time. While a Shoulder Replacement is a rather invasive procedure compared to others, it has an extremely high success rate for patients looking to improve their shoulder mobility.
Stiffness and pain in the joint could be caused by Frozen Shoulder; a condition that makes the shoulder difficult to move, worsening over time. Frozen Shoulder appears when the shoulder capsule (connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint) becomes thickened and inflamed. While this illness can go away on its own, it can take several years before sufferers feel relief. There is no clear cause for Frozen Shoulder so avoiding its reoccurrence is difficult to pinpoint.
Frequent Dislocations (Shoulder Instability)
A Shoulder Dislocation is characterized by the upper arm bone popping out of the shoulder socket. This injury is typically the result of some type of sports contact, a traumatic accident or a fall. Dislocations can be a one-and-done incident, however, once a dislocation occurs you are more susceptible for future re-injury. Particularly among athletes, an initial dislocation can lead to chronic dislocations, depending on the sport and the players position. While some non-surgical treatments are used initially, those with repeated dislocations typically need surgery to avoid future dislocations and further injury.
How Can Physical Therapy Help Me Recover?
Physical therapy is prescribed either after surgery for recovery, or as a surgical alternative to any of the above (or other) conditions. Your orthopedic surgeon will determine the best course of treatment based on your injury and it’s severity. Regardless of when you begin PT, therapy is conducted in stages to achieve the best result. During your first sessions, your physical therapist will work on pain relief modalities to aid in your discomfort and reduce any swelling. In the weeks that follow, increasing your range of motion will be the focus and eventually, your treatment will progress to strengthening exercises. The goal for any patient is to achieve a level of function prior to injury. Our therapists always keep an individual’s daily tasks in mind.
“What do you need to be able to do when therapy is over that you are unable to do now?” This is a typical question our therapists like to ask in order to gage a patient’s goals. For some, the ability to pitch a baseball or throw a perfect spiral is where they need to be after therapy. For others, simple tasks like tying their hair in a ponytail or putting on a shirt pain free are the goals for them.
Home Exercises For Shoulder Rehabilitation
There are several home exercises a patient can perform to help increase mobility and strength in the shoulder. These exercises involve the use of easily accessible therapy equipment that can even be purchased from our online store.
For these exercises, we recommend using a 65cm or 75cm diameter exercise ball. Norco (SKU META-107) and TheraBand (SKU META-1789) both have exercise balls available on the Motus Store page.
- While standing with the ball on top of a waist height counter or table, rest your injured arm on the top of the ball and gently roll the ball back and forth, bending at the elbow. Move slowly and repeat 10 times, then switch arms.
- While standing with the ball on top of a waist height counter or table, extend your injured arm on the top of the ball and gently roll the ball from side to side. Move slowly and repeat 10 times, then switch arms.
- While standing parallel to a wall, pin the ball between you and the wall and gently walk both arms up the ball until the ball is being held overhead between the wall and your hand. Lift one arm backwards off the ball, count to 10 and then do the same with the opposite hand. Move slowly and repeat 10 times.
TheraBands are a resistance band brand that we carry at the Motus Store (SKU META-2742). We recommend purchasing the “Beginner Resistance” pack which includes 3 colored bands. The Yellow resistance is very light so start with the the Red bands at first and then move to the Green. With all bands, the further away you stand or higher up on the band you grab, the more resistance you will feel.
- Find the middle of your band and shut it securely into the top of a door with both halves of the band dangling in front of you. Facing the door, hold a band in each hand in front of your body with your elbows straight, then slowly pull the bands until they are extended at your sides. Hold for a few seconds, then reverse the motion and slowly extend your arms back upwards. Repeat 10 times.
- Find the middle of your band and shut it securely into the bottom of a door (between the door and the jam, not the door and the floor) with both halves in front of you. Stand with your back to the door and place both parts of the band in one hand with your arms rested at your sides. Slowly pull the bands and extend your arm upward in a straight forward motion until your hand is at face level. Keep your elbow straight throughout the motion. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly bring your arm back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then switch arms.
- Find the middle of your band and shut it securely into the middle of a door frame with both halves in front of you. Hold each band at your sides with your elbows slightly bent. Slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together, pulling the bands back. Be sure to keep your shoulders level; do not shrug. Hold for a few moments, then return to the start position. Repeat 10 times.
- Find the middle of your band and shut it securely into the middle of a door frame with both halves in front of you. Stand perpendicular to the door, stepping away so that your arm is extended away from your side. Holding both parts of the band in 1 hand, slowly pull your arm straight back to your hip, stretching the bands. hold for a few moments, then return to start. Repeat 10 times, then switch hands.
Light dumbbells or soft ball weights can be used for the below exercises. We carry TheraBand Soft Ball Weights (SKU META-1846) in the Motus store.
- Lying face down on a bed with your arm dangling down 1 side, begin raising your arm to the side (away from the bed) until it is parallel with the floor, keeping it straight the whole time. Hold for a few seconds, then bring back down. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides. These exercises should first be performed without weights, and then slowly adding 1-2lb weights (dumbbells or ball weights) over time.
- Lying face down on a bed with your arm dangling down 1 side, begin raising your arm in front of you (keeping it along the bed) until it is inline with your head, keeping it straight the whole time. Hold for a few seconds, then bring back down. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides. These exercises should first be performed without weights, and then slowly adding 1-2lb weights (dumbbells or ball weights)over time.
- Lying face down on a bed with your arm dangling down 1 side, begin pulling your arm backwards towards your legs (keeping it along the bed) until it is inline with your legs, keeping it straight the whole time. Hold for a few seconds, then bring back down. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides. These exercises should first be performed without weights, and then slowly adding 1-2lb weights(dumbbells or ball weights) over time.