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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 by keeping it elevated, and cold therapy.

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.

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.

Shoulder flexion

Illustration of child with shoulder straight above their head next to their ear

Start sitting or standing up and do not arch your back. Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Start with your arm down by your side and your elbow straight.

Raise your arm forward above your head as far as possible.

Relax your arm and return to the starting position.

Shoulder extension

Illustration of child with arm straight behind their back

Start sitting or standing up and do not arch your back. Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Start with your arm down by your side and your elbow straight.

Bring your arm backwards.

Relax your arm and return to the starting position.

Shoulder abduction

Illustration of child with shoulder straight above their head next to their ear

Start sitting or standing up and do not arch your back. Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Raise your arm out to the side with your thumb pointing upwards.

Raise your head above your arm until you feel a stretch.

Relax your arm and return to the starting position.

External rotation

Illustration of child with elbow tucked into side and forearm out

Start sitting or standing up and do not arch your back. Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Start holding your arm at your side with your elbow bent.

Keeping your elbow still. Move your hand out to the side away from your body.

Internal rotation

Illustration of child with their hand behind their back

Start sitting or standing up and do not arch your back. Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Start with your arm at your side with your elbow straight.

Reach behind your back with your arm.

Slide your hand up your back as far as you can. Return to the starting position.

Shoulder roll

Illustration of child shrugging shoulders

Start sitting or standing up and do not arch your back. Keep your shoulders facing forwards and do not twist your body.

Start with your arms down by your side and your elbows straight.

Slowly roll your shoulders forwards making big circles.

Slowly roll your shoulders backwards, making big circles.

Pendular exercises (forwards and backwards)

Illustration of child stood in front of tableIllustration of child leaning forwards and swinging arm forwards and backwardsIllustration of child leaning forwards and swinging arm forwards and backwards

Start standing up and do not arch your back. Lean on a table with your unaffected hand and let your arm hang straight down. Make sure your arm is relaxed throughout.

Relax your arm, letting it hang straight down.

Using the weight of your arm, swing your arm forwards and backwards.

Pendular exercises (side to side)

Illustration of child stood in front of tableIllustration of child leaning forwards and swinging arm side to sideIllustration of child leaning forwards and swinging arm side to side

Start standing up and do not arch your back. Lean on a table with your unaffected hand and let your arm hang straight down. Make sure your arm is relaxed throughout.

Relax your arm, letting it hang straight down.

Using the weight of your arm, swing your arm from side to side in front of your body.

Pendular exercises (circles)

Illustration of child leaning forwards and circling arm aroundIllustration of child leaning forwards and circling arm around

Start standing up and do not arch your back. Lean on a table with your unaffected hand and let your arm hang straight down. Make sure your arm is relaxed throughout.

Relax your arm, letting it hang straight down.

Using the weight of your arm, swing your arm in circles, first clockwise and then anticlockwise.

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not 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 this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: OT30

Resource Type: Article

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