Easy Shoulder Exercises After a Rotator Cuff Surgery

By Darin McGilvra

Having rotator cuff surgery on your shoulder likely means a long and difficult rehabilitation and could result in six months or more away from the golf course. But your recovery time can often be shortened by working hard in rehabilitation and doing some simple exercises to speed the healing process. Some discomfort is to be expected when you start your exercise routine, but stop immediately and inform your doctor or physical therapist if you suffer from sharp or severe pain. Exercises should be done three to five times a day in groups of 10 to 15 repetitions, and positions should be held for three to five seconds.

First Stage

The first exercises just after surgery are generally passive, meaning you do not use the muscles in the injured shoulder to move the arm. Instead, they are designed to help increase the range of motion.
While lying on your back with your injured arm next to you, use your good arm to slowly move the injured arm, keeping the elbow straight through a 180-degree arc until it is next to your head. Then slowly lower the arm to its original position, making sure the shoulder remains completely relaxed.
While still lying on your back, put a pillow or towel under the elbow of the injured arm, then bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle and point your hand up. Use a dowel or stick and push the hand of the injured arm out away from the body until you feel it beginning to stretch.
To maintain range of motion in your injured arm, sit in a chair with it next to your body, then move your elbow through its full range without help from your good arm.
To maintain muscle strength and reduce swelling, squeeze a rubber ball or squeeze toy, even if your arm is still in a sling.

Second Stage

Your doctor or physical therapist will decide when to move on to more active exercises, but it usually happens about six to eight weeks after surgery and involves more active stretching of the shoulder.
One exercise is to stand and place the injured arm behind you with your thumb at the base of your spine. Slowly move it up the spine as far as you can and then back down again. You may need to use a towel at first to help with this one. With your good arm holding one end of the towel, drop it behind your head and grasp the other end with your other hand, then use your good arm to pull the injured one up.
Another exercise requires you to stand with your injured arm straight out in front of you, then move the arm slowly in front of you toward the other arm while keeping the elbow straight. Use your healthy arm to help stretch it further.

Third Stage

Strengthening the rotator cuff doesn't usually begin until at least 12 weeks after surgery and typically involves rubber tubing, which you can get from your physical therapist, and possibly some light weights.
Attach the tubing to a doorknob of a door that is locked or closed and won't easily open. With your injured arm at your side and the elbow bent at 90 degrees, stand perpendicular to the door with the good arm closest to it. Grab the end of the tubing with the injured arm and pull it outward away from your body until it is taut, then slowly allow it to be slack. After exercising in this direction, turn so the injured arm is closer to the door and pull the tubing in toward your body.
Another strength exercise is done while lying on your back, with the injured arm laying out away from you at shoulder height while holding a light weight with the palm up. Lift the weight while keeping the elbow straight until your arm is pointed straight up, then slowly lower the arm back into its original position.

About The Author

Darin McGilvra is a writer in Southern California. He has been a writer since 1997. He worked as a sports writer and copy editor for newspapers for more than 12 years before becoming a freelance writer. His articles have appeared recently in "The Californian" newspaper in Temecula, Calif. McGilvra holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics education from Northwest Nazarene College.


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