Shoulder Exercises Used in Occupational and Physical Therapy

Oct19th 2016

The video above demonstrates a basic shoulder exercise that encourages the shoulder to move into a stable position. We refer to it as the “lawnmower”. Controlling the scapula before and during lifting and weight bearing activities is essential.

Physical Therapy

The Shoulder Complex

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. Its motion allows us to throw a ball, scratch behind our back and reach across our body to grab a seat belt. There are 16 major muscles that control the shoulder blade (scapula) and many of these, the trapezius for example, move the shoulder in several different directions. The often injured rotator cuff is comprised of four individual muscles, the supraspinatus, infrasinatus, teres minor and the subscapularis.

Poor posture, repetitive strain and trauma can all lead to the rotator cuff and surrounding muscles to become inflamed and weakened. While there is great mobility in the shoulder there is a sacrifice in stability. It’s common to know someone who has suffered a shoulder dislocation or had an injury known as a labral tear. These injuries occur when the arm moves beyond its normal range and results in ligament damage. Falling suddenly with an outstretched arm, such as in snowboarding, can result in this type of injury.

Therapeutic Shoulder Exercises

Occupational and physical therapy can return an injured shoulder to a state of stability and strength. There are literally hundreds of shoulder exercises that can facilitate the return of motion and performance. With the guidance of a physician and experienced occupational or physical therapist an individual with a shoulder injury, even one needing surgery, can usually return to sport. Therapy exercises should focus on specific performance goals which can include a pain free return to yoga, tennis and rock climbing.

This second video demonstrates a “robbery” position of the arms. Moving the shoulder and arms through these motions will engage several muscles including the rotator cuff. Discomfort with these positions may indicate injury to the shoulder joint or tendons. 

Performing these shoulder exercises under the guidance of an occupational or physical therapist is recommended. Depending on the injury and phase of healing these and many other exercises can make a condition much worse. Follow our blog and YouTube channel to be notified about future post about exercises that address specific injuries.

If you want the experts at MoveMend to assess your shoulder pain click here!

Written by Aaron Shaw, OTR/L, CHT, CSCS
Occupational Therapist
Certified Hand Therapist
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist