Shoulder rehabilitation can reduce pain and restore function to an injured shoulder. The shoulder moves in more directions and to greater extents than any other joint in your body. However, because it performs so many movements, the shoulder is vulnerable to stress and injury. Shoulder injuries are very common, especially among those who play sports or have jobs with overhead arm motions. Shoulder conditions that are frequently treated in rehabilitation include rotator cuff injuries, fractures, dislocations, and joint, nerve, or muscle disorders.
Your doctor can refer you to a physical or occupational therapist that specializes in shoulder rehabilitation. Shoulder rehabilitation may be prescribed before a surgery, after surgery, or as a treatment instead of surgery. The goal of shoulder rehabilitation is to reduce pain, improve your strength, endurance, mobility, coordination, and functional activity.
At your initial evaluation, your rehabilitation therapist will examine your shoulder and arm. Measurements will be taken to see how far you can move your joints and how strong your muscles are. Your therapist will look for signs of deformities, swelling, or muscle imbalance. Painful motions will be documented.
You should tell your rehabilitation therapist about your symptoms, concerns, and specific goals. Your therapist will ask you about your activities at work, home, and leisure to learn more about the functional needs of your shoulder. Your rehabilitation therapist will create a treatment plan based on your goals for functional improvement.
Components of shoulder rehabilitation vary and depend on the type of condition you have, the extent of your condition, and your goals. It is common for therapy to include strengthening, mobility, endurance, and stretching exercises. Your rehabilitation therapist may use modalities, such as heat and ice, to reduce pain and increase flexibility. Ultrasound and electrical stimulation are other modalities commonly used on the shoulder.
In general, therapy is geared to first regain or maintain range of motion. Strength and stability training usually begin after range of motion has improved. Specific exercises are gradually added with the goal of returning the patient back to their sport and or normal work activities.