Post Op Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder and Elbow Service by Robert J. Gillespie, MD

The Post Op Shoulder Stretch:

  • A sling has been provided for you. Remove the sling 5 times each day to perform motion exercises.
  • Pain medication has been prescribed for you.
  • 3 to 5 times each day you should perform assisted overhead reaching and external rotation (outward turning) exercises with the operative arm. You were taught these exercises prior to discharge. Both exercises should be done with the non-operative arm used as the “therapist arm” while the operative arm remains relaxed. Ten of each exercise should be done three to five times each day.

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Overhead reach is helping to lift your stiff arm up as high as it will go. To stretch your overhead reach, lie flat on your back, relax, and grasp the wrist of the tight shoulder with your opposite hand. Using the power in your opposite arm, bring the stiff arm up as far as it is comfortable. Start holding it for ten seconds and then work up to where you can hold it for a count of 30. Breathe slowly and deeply while the arm is moved. Repeat this stretch ten times, trying to help the arm up a little higher each time.

External rotation is turning the arm out to the side while your elbow stays close to your body. External rotation is best stretched while you are lying on your back. Hold a cane, yardstick, broom handle, or dowel in both hands. Bend both elbows to a right angle. Use steady, gentle force from your normal arm to rotate the hand of the stiff shoulder out away from your body. Continue the rotation as far as it will go comfortably, usually around 25-30 degrees, holding it there for a count of 10. Repeat this exercise ten times.

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