7 shoulder exercises you can do during PT to relieve pain and build strength

by | Jun 7, 2024 | Shoulder and Arm Pain

When you have a pain in your shoulder, everyday movements like grabbing something off a high shelf or waving to a neighbor can be difficult. The good news is that there are plenty of shoulder exercises that you can perform that are backed by physical therapists.

When you’re experiencing persistent or worsening shoulder pain, a physical therapist can help you move along the recovery process. Not only can they help reduce your symptoms, such as shoulder pain, but they can also show you how to strengthen the area to reduce the risk of further issues.

We’ll walk you through a few shoulder exercises that you can complete during or in between PT appointments to help reduce shoulder pain and strengthen the affected muscles. 

7 shoulder exercises used in physical therapy to reduce pain and increase strength 

In physical therapy, one of the most utilized treatments for shoulder pain is strengthening exercises. Not only do they help with pain management, but they also increase the strength of the shoulder tendons and muscles for increased support of the shoulder joint, improved function and a wider range of motion.

Your physical therapist will show you how to perform safe and effective shoulder strengthening exercises during your sessions, based on the cause and severity of your symptoms. You can perform them at home between sessions to continue improvement and manage the pain. 

Your physical therapist will also instruct you on how many times to repeat each exercise. Some of these exercises may not be safe for certain shoulder injuries, such as a dislocated shoulder.

Here are seven shoulder exercises you may do during PT to alleviate pain and increase strength:

  • Passive internal rotation — Hold a long stick or ruler behind your back with both hands, one on either end. While keeping it horizontal, move the stick to the right so that your left shoulder is gently stretched. Hold it on the right side for up to 30 seconds or as instructed by your physical therapist. Return the stick to the resting position before switching to the left side.
  • Doorway shoulder stretch — Stand in a doorway. Raise your arms and rest them against the door frame so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Keep your palms pressed to the frame as you step forward with your right foot. Lean forward while engaging your core. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds or as instructed by your physical therapist. Bring your feet together before switching to the left foot.
  • Downward dog pose — Go down into a pushup position. Maintain even weight on your hands and feet while keeping your knees slightly bent. Bring your head back toward your knees while keeping your back straight. Your shoulders should be pressed against your ears. Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds or as instructed by your physical therapist.
  • Standing row — Tie the ends of an elastic band together, making a loop that’s approximately 3 feet long. Place the loop around a stable object, such as a doorknob, and hold it with your elbow slightly bent while it rests at your side. Pull your elbow straight back while squeezing your shoulder blades together before returning your elbow to its resting position. 
  • Elbow flexion — Stand with your weight evenly distributed while holding one weight in each hand. While keeping your elbows close to your side, raise one weight up to your shoulder and hold it for two seconds before lowering it back down to the resting position. Switch to the other hand.
  • Chest expansion — Hold a strap, exercise band or rolled-up towel behind your back with both hands, one on either end. Move your shoulder blades together to broaden your chest. Lift your chin up to the ceiling, and hold the position for up to 30 seconds, or as directed by your physical therapist, before returning to the resting position.
  • Shoulder scaption — While standing, hold a weight in one hand. Slowly lift and extend your arm away from your body until it’s about 45 degrees, before lowering it back down to your side. Your physical therapist may recommend holding weights in both hands and lifting them at the same time.

Forever Fit can show you shoulder exercises through physical therapy

When done correctly, shoulder exercises can alleviate your pain while strengthening the surrounding area and improving its overall mobility. However, to ensure that these exercises don’t exacerbate the problem, it’s important that a physical therapist shows you the proper way to execute them.

At Forever Fit, our physical therapists will guide you through targeted shoulder exercises and help you return to your regular activities with less pain.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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