Health blog

Three physical therapy exercises for your rotator cuff after surgery

November 1st, 2021
Rotator Cuff Physical Therapy Exercises for Student-Athletes

There are many stages you’ll go through after rotator cuff surgery. First, the affected shoulder will be immobilized for a time. Then, a physical therapist will start using their hands to move your shoulder through its normal range of motion (ROM). This stage is called passive movement. 

Next, you’re finally ready to start doing exercises on your own. At first, you’ll be doing active movements where you move your arm on your own but don’t move it against resistance. Finally, you’ll add strengthening exercises that include resistance until your recovery is complete. These final two stages of rotator cuff surgery rehab contain many exercises, but there are three exercises that can be especially helpful for your rotator cuff after surgery. These exercises are the: 

  1. Pendulum exercise 

Purpose: The pendulum exercise falls into the active movement phase. There are several goals this exercise can meet for your rotator cuff after surgery. Some of these goals include reducing stiffness, decreasing pain and improving shoulder ROM. 

How to do the pendulum exercise: 

  • Stand next to a stable, flat piece of furniture, like a coffee table. Place your unaffected hand on the flat surface while bending forward from the waist. 
  • Allow your affected arm to hang straight down. 
  • Rock your body to get your affected arm moving in small, clockwise circles. Be sure to keep your arm and shoulder relaxed. 
  • Move your arm through 10 clockwise circles; then switch directions and do 10 counterclockwise circles. 
  • Do this exercise two to three times throughout the day. 
  1. Forward raise exercise

Purpose: Swinging your arm forward from your waist until it’s above your head is a natural movement. The forward raise exercise is an active stage exercise for your rotator cuff after surgery, and it’s designed to help restore your ability to do this natural movement. 

How to do the forward raise exercise:

  • Stand up straight with plenty of space around you (you don’t want to hit your arm on anything). 
  • Let your affected arm hang down at your side with your palm facing toward you. 
  • Keeping your elbow straight, slowly raise your arm from your waist until your fingers are pointing toward the ceiling. 
  • Hold this position for eight to 10 seconds. 
  • Slowly lower your arm back to the starting position. 
  • Repeat this exercise five to 10 times to complete one set. 
  • Do your best to complete three sets throughout the day. 
  1. Weighted internal rotation exercise

Purpose: Your shoulder should allow your arm to rotate in toward your body and out away from it. The weighted internal rotation exercise is a strengthening exercise; it’s designed to help your rotator cuff get used to this internal rotation again after surgery. 

How to do the weighted internal rotation exercise:

  • Lie down on a bed on your affected side. 
  • Place a light hand weight or a light household item, like a can of soup, in your affected hand. 
  • Keep your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and let the back of your hand touch the bed. 
  • Slowly rotate your arm up toward your stomach. 
  • Slowly lower your arm back to the bed. 
  • Repeat this movement 10 times in total to complete one set. 
  • Work up to the point where you can do three sets of this exercise throughout the day. 

Rehab Access can help you rehab your rotator cuff after surgery

Eager to get expert help rehabilitating your rotator cuff after surgery? You can find the help you need at our Rehab Access Physical Therapy clinics. Here, our physical therapists can do a free screening to establish where your shoulder is in the healing process. They can then build you a personalized rehab plan designed to reduce your pain, improve your shoulder ROM and help you recover as quickly as possible. 

Contact our team today for more information about our post-surgical rehab services or to schedule an initial appointment to start rehabbing your newly repaired rotator cuff.