What’s the Best Rehab and Conditioning?

What’s the Best Rehab and Conditioning for Shoulders?

Following shoulder pain and discomfort, it’s important to engage in an exercise rehab and conditioning program in order to return to your daily activities.

You will want to strengthen the muscles that surround your shoulders, focus on good posture and improve on your range of motion through flexibility.

Here is the 3 step process most physical therapists use to reduce muscle soreness and protect your shoulders from future injuries.

Step 1:

Here are the 5 rules to the shoulder strengthening process:

Improve posture

Balance muscles around the shoulder

Rest what’s injured

Stretch what’s tight

Strengthen what’s weak

You shouldn’t be performing movements that cause you pain.  Whenever a movement causes you pain, think of it on a scale of 0 to 10, where:

  • 0 = no pain whatsoever
  • 10 = emergency level pain
  • Your goal is less than 3 out of 10

Whenever you have pain that is 3 out of 10 or less, the chances are you are not irritating the area as much as you are strengthening it.  Therefore, you shouldn’t have to worry about the after-effects of swelling, etc. that would take place with 3 out of 10 pain. 

If your pain climbs above 3/10 during any point during the workout, be sure to ice as soon as possible for 5-7 minutes, with a wet paper towel directly over your shoulder (single layer) and a bag of ice. 

You should attempt to avoid pain less than 3 out of 10, but this may occur.  Icing stops inflammation, but it does not get rid of swelling.  Therefore, the sooner you ice, the better. The wet paper towel makes the ice work better and deeper. 

Before eliminating an exercise from your routine, be sure that you had proper posture during the exercise. 

This means: 

  • Light tension in your glutes and abs
  • Chest out with shoulder blades pinched down and back.

Step 2:

Realize the power of a proper warm up.  You should be spending a minimum of 5-7 minutes warming up (ideally 20 minutes.)  Warm-up increases circulation to injured tissue and speeds up healing. Warm-up should be anything that doesn’t cause pain in your shoulder.  Great examples include:

  • A brisk walk (if you can count to “Three one-thousand” without taking a breathe, you are going too slow.)
  • Elliptical cross-trainer machine – with or without arm component depending on pain scale
  • Stairmaster machine
  • Recumbent bicycle

Step 3:

Begin a strengthening program for your injury. The specific exercises and stretches you do will vary based on your shoulder condition. Never go beyond 3 out of 10 pain level.

You should be exercising 4 or more days per week in progressive phases. 

Remember, the more fit you are, the more your body becomes a natural healer. By choosing to improve your fitness level, you are already doing most of the recovery work.

Too many people rest when they have an injury.  It should be the opposite.  If you have a shoulder injury, you should be sure to exercise more, not less.

Timeline:  6 weeks – careful strengthening

3 Phases of strengthening

Phase 1 (weeks 1-2)

Do all pain-free exercises

Do very light resistance of painful exercises

Aim for 15 repetitions at very low resistance.  These may cause pain, but do not allow your pain to become greater than a 3/10 (see scale above)

Phase 2 (weeks 3-4)

Begin light resistance with all previously painful exercises.  Aim for 15 repetitions at a very low resistance

Increase resistance and decrease repetitions with the exercises that were previously 15 repetitions. 

Aim for 10 repetitions of these exercises at a moderate resistance.

Phase 3 (weeks 5-6)

Strengthen all noted Phase 2 exercises from 15 reps to 10 reps

Continue strengthening all 10 repetition exercises

Aim for 10 repetitions at a relatively high resistance

Modify as needed to reduce pain with exercise.  Never allow pain to climb above 3/10 on pain scale. 

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