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Stretches and Exercises That Help Shoulder Instability

Stretches and Exercises That Help Shoulder Instability

The rotator cuff is a set of muscles and their corresponding tendons that keep the ball of your shoulder joint in its socket. A rotator cuff injury is often the cause, or result of, shoulder instability. Another common cause of shoulder instability is an acute trauma to the shoulder that dislocates the ball from its socket.

At our Baytown and Houston, Texas, Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine clinics, David Lintner, MD, helps you keep your shoulder stable after dislocation so you can avoid surgery. Whether you already have an unstable shoulder or want to prevent one, the following exercises are a good starting point. 

Exercise your willpower

If you have experienced a shoulder dislocation, chances are it will happen again. The muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder in place become damaged and stretched, which makes stabilization more difficult.

You may feel like your shoulder is unstable and needs to be “popped out” to maneuver it back into the socket. Resist the urge. The more your upper-arm bone leaves its shoulder socket, the risk of dislocation increases.

Be sure to warm up before exercise by gently moving your arm and shoulder. Always stretch before beginning strengthening exercises.

Crossover arm stretch

This stretch affects your posterior deltoid. You’ll feel it at the back of your shoulder.

Relax your shoulders. With one hand, gently pull your other upper arm across your chest as far as possible. Hold the arm for 30 seconds without pulsing or pulling. Relax your arm for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other arm.

Do four sets of crossover arm stretches 5-6 days a week. Avoid putting pressure on your elbow.

Passive internal rotation

This stretch affects your subscapularis. You’ll feel the stretch at the front of your shoulder. You do this stretch with a light stick, such as a yardstick.

Hold the stick behind your back with one hand. Gently grasp the other end of the stick with your other hand. Pull the stick straight across.

You should feel a passive stretch. If you feel any pain, relax the pull. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Do four sets 5-6 times per week. 

Passive external rotation

This exercise affects the infraspinatus, teres minor. You’ll feel it in the back of your shoulder.

Grasp a light stick in one hand in front of your body. Cup the other end of the stick with the other hand. Press the elbow of the shoulder you’re stretching against your side, then press the stick horizontally into your other palm. 

Hold for 30 seconds. You should feel a pull in your shoulder muscle but no pain. Relax for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Do four sets 5-6 times a week. 

Standing row

This exercise strengthens your middle and lower trapezius. You should feel this exercise at the back of your shoulder and upper back.

Make a 3-foot-long loop with an elastic exercise band. Tie the ends together and attach the loop to a doorknob.

Keeping the band loose, hold it in one hand and stand about three feet from the door. Keep your elbow bent and at your side. Keep your arm close, and pull your elbow slowly straight back.

Slowly return to the slack position. Repeat 8-12 times. Repeat on the other side. Do three sets three times a week. 

Shoulder blade squeeze

Stand with your arms relaxed at your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Don’t raise your shoulders as you squeeze. Hold for six seconds. Repeat 8-12 times

If you’re unsure of how to perform the exercises correctly, let us know. We can show you how to properly perform these stretches at our office.

Contact us today if you have a dislocated or unstable shoulder. Treating a shoulder injury quickly may help you avoid surgery and long-term shoulder rehabilitation protocols. Schedule your appointment by phoning our friendly team or booking an appointment online.

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