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Physical Therapy for Shoulder Injury Prevention and Recovery

Physical Therapy for Shoulder Injury Prevention and Recovery

Author: Mark Neves, OTL, MS, HTC

A person holding hand weights straight out

From brushing your hair to throwing a fastball, the range of motion your shoulder allows is pretty amazing. Comprised of the clavicle (collarbone), scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus (upper arm bone), the shoulder is one of the most complex and versatile joints in the human body. However, because the ball portion of the upper arm is larger than the shoulder socket, it’s also one of the most unstable.

Injuries of the shoulders and upper extremities are incredibly common and can affect anyone at any age. Ranging in severity from simple strains from overuse to cartilage degradation from osteoarthritis, the effect shoulder injuries can have on one’s quality of life can be significant.

Physical therapy is a valuable tool for preventing further injury, combatting the progression of chronic shoulder conditions, and alleviating pain symptoms. Should surgery become necessary, it can also prove beneficial for patients’ post-operative recovery and rehabilitation.

For Prevention

Every shoulder injury is unique, but a variety of common injuries share similar causes. Minor complications like tendinitis and frozen shoulder often result from repetitive activity or strain caused by atypical use. Many of these injuries can be avoided with routine muscle conditioning and flexibility exercises. Working to improve posture and balance can also help patients reduce unnecessary muscle strain and avoid certain shoulder complications.

Physical or occupational therapists work with patients to alleviate pain symptoms while increasing their range of motion. Therapists may also focus on compensatory muscle strengthening, which supports the muscles surrounding an injured or weakened muscle in order to relieve strain. This technique is used to prevent further injury and can even help patients avoid surgery in some cases.

For Recovery

Even for more serious issues, like fractures, muscle tears, or rotator cuff injuries, manual therapies can be used to improve mobility, rebuild strength, and restore function in the affected area. After undergoing shoulder replacement or other surgical interventions, physical therapy is known to make an incredible difference in patient recovery and rehabilitation. Working with a therapist after their procedure will help patients monitor their progress, manage pain and inflammation, and maximize their overall recovery.

Regardless of their condition or rehabilitation objectives, physical rehabilitation therapy truly optimizes a patient’s healing potential when they are willing to work with their therapists. It’s important for patients to take ownership of their progress, and to view the relationship with their therapist as a partnership between two people who share the same goal: recovery.

Where to Start

There is no condition that’s too big or too small to benefit from physical therapy. At Washington Hospital, physical therapists, skilled staff members, and specialized orthopedic surgeons work together in order to optimize patient experience and improve recovery outcomes for a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions. Washington Hospital also offers a variety of educational resources and strength training programs to support physical fitness and increased strength for all patients.

Our dedicated team at the Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center guides patients through every stage of their pre- and post-operative care and recovery. Visit to explore our therapeutic care offerings or to learn more about the Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center.

Posted March, 2020