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General shoulder exercises

Therapy exercises

This material has been designed to help you remember the exercises your therapist taught and practised with you. The exercises should be done slowly. Some discomfort may be noted whilst doing these exercises after your operation or injury. If pain limits your ability to do your exercises, then timing them around your pain relief may be helpful. However, if pain persists or you have severe pain, please seek advice from a healthcare professional and stop the exercises.

How many times should I perform these exercises?

It is recommended that each exercise is repeated 10 times and performed a minimum of 3 to 4 times a day. Ensure the exercises are staggered throughout the day.

Managing my swelling

Swelling is common in the first few weeks following an injury or operation. This can be improved in the following ways:

1 Elevate

Always elevate your arm. Proper elevation means your arm should be above the level of the heart. Use pillows or cushions at home to do this.

2 Cold therapy

Cold packs can be used to aid swelling reduction. If you use something that is frozen this must be wrapped in a damp towel or cloth to avoid ice burns. No more than ten minutes at a time is required for cold therapy. This can be repeated throughout the day if needed.

1 Shoulder flexion

Boy standing with his arm flat to his sideChild standing with their arm pointing straight up

Position

  • Sitting or standing up.
  • Do not arch your back.
  • Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Instructions

  1. Start with your arm down by your side and your elbow straight.
  2. Raise your arm forward above your head as far as possible.
  3. Relax your arm and return to the starting position.

2 Shoulder extension

Boy standing with his arm flat to his sideChild standing with his arm swinging backwards by his side

Position

  • Standing up.
  • Do not arch your back.
  • Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Instructions

  1. Start with your arm down by your side and your elbow straight.
  2. Bring your arm backwards.
  3. Relax your arm and return to the starting position.

3 Shoulder abduction

Child moving their arm outwards from their side Child holding one arm straight up

Position

  • Sitting or standing up.
  • Do not arch your back.
  • Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Instructions

  1. Raise your arm out to the side with your thumb pointing upwards.
  2. Raise your head above your arm until you feel a stretch.
  3. Relax your arm and return to the starting position.

4 External rotation

Child holding one arm forwards from their body with their elbow bent at a right angleChild holding one arm sideways out from their body with their elbow bent at a right angle

Position

  • Sitting or standing up.
  • Do not arch your back.
  • Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Instructions

  1. Start holding your arm at your side with your elbow bent.
  2. Keeping your elbow still. Move your hand out to the side away from your body.

5 Internal rotation

Child seen from back with arms by their side Child reaching one arm backwards to touch between their shoulderblades, with their palm facing out

Position

  • Standing up.
  • Do not arch your back.
  • Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Instructions

  1. Start with your arm at your side with your elbow straight.
  2. Reach behind your back with your arm.
  3. Slide your hand up your back as far as you can.
  4. Return to the starting position.

6 Shoulder roll

Child standing with their arms by their side Child raising their shoulders with their arms still touching their side

Position

  • Sitting or standing up.
  • Do not arch your back.
  • Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Instructions

  1. Start with your arms down by your side and your elbows straight.
  2. Slowly roll your shoulders forwards making big circles.
  3. Slowly roll your shoulders backwards, making big circles.

7 Pendular exercises (forwards and backwards)

Child seen from the side on standing with their arms by their side Child leaning forward with one hand on the back of a sofa, the other hand swinging towards the sofa from their side Child leaning forward with one hand on the back of a sofa, the other hand swinging backwards away from the sofa at their side

Position

  • Standing up.
  • Lean on a table with your unaffected hand and let your arm hang straight down.
  • Ensure your arm is relaxed throughout.

Instructions

  1. Relax your arm, letting it hang straight down.
  2. Using the weight of your arm, swing your arm forwards and backwards.

8 Pendular exercises (side to side)

Child seen from the side on standing with their arms by their sideChild leaning forward with one hand on the back of a sofa, their free hand is swinging sideways across their bodyChild leaning forward with one hand on the back of a sofa, their free hand is swinging sideways across their body

Position

  • Standing up.
  • Lean on a table with your unaffected hand and let your arm hang straight down.
  • Ensure your arm is relaxed throughout.

Instructions

  1. Relax your arm, letting it hang straight down.
  2. Using the weight of your arm, swing your arm from side to side in front of your body.

9 Pendular exercises (circles)

Child leaning forward with one hand on the back of a sofa, the other hand swinging towards the sofa from their side Child leaning forward with one hand on the back of a sofa, their free hand is swinging sideways across their body

Position

  • Standing up.
  • Lean on a table with your unaffected hand and let your arm hang straight down.
  • Ensure your arm is relaxed throughout.

Instructions

  1. Relax your arm, letting it hang straight down.
  2. Using the weight of your arm, swing your arm in circles, first clockwise and then anticlockwise.

 

Notes

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Disclaimer

Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

Resource number: OT30

Resource Type: Article

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United Kingdom

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