The shoulder should be flexible enough to move through a large range of motion, as your arms move in many directions. Sometimes, the flexibility of the shoulder leads to joint instability. When this happens, you may experience discomfort or pain or require surgery to repair the shoulder. One way to stabilize the shoulder and rehabilitate it after an injury is with a reverse pendulum exercise.
The series of pendulum swings to rehabilitate a shoulder is known as Codman's exercises. In the traditional pendulum swing, you lie face down or stand with your injured arm hanging down and your good arm supported by the bed or table or holding on to a chair. These two options are the first step in your shoulder recovery. Once you master these and as your strength increases, use the reverse pendulum lying down to improve your shoulder's range of motion. In this position, gravity pulls down on your arm, which further increases your strength and flexibility. Your arm swings front to back, side to side and in circles like a pendulum.
When your shoulder muscles are stronger and contracting, perform the reverse pendulum in a face-up, supine position. Lie on your back on a sturdy bench or table. The stability of the base supports your upper back and shoulder blades. Your arm extends straight up from your shoulder. Perform the pendulum exercises and swing your arm front to back and side to side, in clockwise and counterclockwise circles. In this supine position, gravity presses down on your shoulder helping you relax the joint.
Your range of motion depends on your comfort and joint stability. At first, you may be able to move your arm 15 degrees forward and backward or side to side. As your flexibility increases, aim to increase the distance you move your arm closer to 30 to 45 degrees. The circles do not have to be large in diameter at first. As your range of motion improves, you should be able to move your arm in a larger circle.
Always speak with your doctor before you begin any shoulder-exercise program, especially if you are experiencing shoulder pain. You can do the pendulum exercises three to four times a day and for 15 to 20 repetitions. Each swing, whether front to back, side to side or in circles, should last from 15 seconds as a beginner to three minutes as you progress.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Shoulder Surgery Exercise Guide
- Shoulder Instability: A Comprehensive Approach; Matthew T. Provencher and Anthony A. Romeo
- The Shoulder Center: After Total Shoulder Replacement
- Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma: Shoulder Range of Motion Exercises
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