Exercises for a Dislocated Shoulder


A dislocated shoulder is a painful injury which occurs when the ball shaped bone of the of the upper arm cones out of the socket it normally rests in, straining or tearing ligaments. After a shoulder dislocation it is important to maintain range of motion through stretching exercise and to gradually begin strengthening exercises to stabilize the joint to prevent future injury.

Shoulder Stretches

  • In the days following a shoulder dislocation you should avoid any exercises that put weight on the arm. After two or three days, you can start doing some mild stretching to keep the shoulders from becoming too stiff and losing range of motion. One simple shoulder stretch is to take an arm and bring it across your chest, using the free arm to cup the elbow and gently pull it in closer to the chest. You should feel a stretch in the back of your shoulder; hold the stretch for fifteen seconds or so, then switch arms. Another stretch which can help shoulder mobility can be done by putting both elbows at your sides with your hands out in front of you, as if you are typing on a keyboard, and then moving the elbows back, as if you are going to touch them behind your back.

Rotator Cuff Exercise

  • The rotator cuff is a small group of muscles that allow the shoulder to rotate the upper arm. Strong rotator cuff muscles help solidify the shoulder joint and will help prevent future dislocations and other shoulder injuries. To work the rotator cuff, take a resistance band or piece of surgical tubing and secure one end to a sturdy object around the level of your belly button. Take one end of the band in the hand of the arm with the injured shoulder, and stand with the elbow at the side at a right angle, with the forearm across the belly. Position yourself so that the resistance from the band is pulling the forearm across the belly. Now rotate your upper arm, so that the forearm moves from being across the belly to pointing straight ahead. Allow the forearm to return to your belly and repeat the exercise until your rotator cuff is too fatigued to continue. The rotator cuff requires very little weight to work out effectively, so you may wish to use a light resistance band.

Dumbbell Exercises

  • When your shoulder has healed for a week or more you can begin working mild shoulder lifting exercises into your rehab to stabilize the shoulder. Take a light dumbbell in both hands (1 to 5 pounds to start) and stand with the weight at your sides. First extend the arms straight out to your sides making a T with your body and arms, then lower the weight back to your sides slowly and repeat. Another exercise can be done by alternating the arms forward straight in front of you. At the top of the lift it will look like you have just thrown a straight punch. A third exercise can be done by moving the arm straight backward instead of forward. Leaning over and supporting yourself on a bench or chair with one hand can help give you a better range of motion for the back shoulder lift. For each lift, concentrate on keeping the arms straight and the weight under control. If at any time you experience pain or moderate discomfort during lifting (discomfort that is not due to muscle fatigue) stop the lift immediately. Either wait a few days for your shoulder to heal, or try reducing the weight to a point where you do not experience pain.

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