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Shoulder Injury Self Treatment

Andrew Brooksbank FRCS- Sports shoulder surgeon

Frank Gilroy MCSP- Physiotherapist

These exercise are a practical self treatment programme but should only be progressed after you have a medical diagnosis of a simple shoulder injury. If your pain persists or increases, seem specialist advice.

In The First 48 Hours

In the early stages after injuring your shoulder you may experience some pain, swelling and stiffness . This is to be expected and will improve with time. At this early stage it is important to keep the shoulder mobile, helping to avoid stiffness. You should also avoid activities that aggravate the shoulder.

During the early stages after shoulder injury the main objectives of management include:

Maintain movement
-Maintaining the range of movement in the shoulder, elbow and hand. If you stop moving the arm it will begin to stiffen and the injury may be made worse.

Avoid aggravating injury
-Decrease aggravating factors, such as strenuous activities involving powerful movements i.e. racket sports, swimming. Failure to do this can make the injury worse and slow healing.

Pain Killers
– Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be bought at the chemist or supermarket. Always check the label before use.

Post Injury 48 Hours

Pendular Exercises
-Stand with the good arm leaning on a table for support. Let your other arm relax and hang down towards the floor. Swing your arm slowly round in a circle. Repeat this 10 times, then change direction and repeat a further 10 times.

Repeat this pendular exercise 3-4 times  day.

Stick Exercises
-Lie on your back and holding a stick or umbrella in both hands raise the stick above your head then lower back down again. Make sure our elbows stay straight throughout the whole movement. Repeat exercise 10 times

-Lie on your back with your elbows at 90 degrees. Use the stick, as shown, to rotate your shoulder away from your body. Repeat exercise 10 times

Repeat these stick exercises 3 times a day

Shoulder rotation
-This exercise can be done standing or sitting. roll your shoulders in circles backwards and then forwards. Repeat exercises 10 times in each direction.

Repeat this shoulder rotation 3 times a day

Hand pumping and elbow bends
-To help reduce swelling make a tight fist with your hand then straighten. Repeat exercise 10 times. Using a tabe for support, bend your elbow as much as possible then straighten. Repeat exercise 10 times.

Repeat the above exercises 3 times a day

Advanced stage exercises

Once range of movement in the injured shoulder is attained and the pain has settled, you can move to advanced stage exercises.

During the advanced stage of rehabilitation the main objectives are:
-Maintain range of movement of the shoulder
-Increase strength of the muscle around the shoulder which in turn will help stabilise the shoulder.

Exercise 1
-Lying on your back, bend your elbow keeping it by your side throughout the exercise. Hold the outside of your affected wrist with your good hand and attempt to move your injured arm outwards. Resist this movement with your good hand. Hold for 5 seconds then relax. Repeat exercise 5 times.

Exercise 2
-In the same position as exercise 1, hold the injured arm on the inside of the wrist. This time try and pull your arm towards your body, resisting it with your good hand. Hold for 5 seconds then relay. Repeat exercise 5 times.

Exercise 3
-In standing, bend your elbow and keep it fixed against your side. Try to press your upper arm backwards into the wall. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax. Repeat exercise 5 times.

Do the above exercises 3 times a day.

How long will it take before i can return to my previous activites?

  • If the activities involve excessive or strenuous movement or if any of the movements cause and increase in your symptoms it is best to avoid them until your shoulder has regained full range of movement, feels strong and is pain free. If activites are resued before proper healing has occured further damage is possible, Make sure both the early and advanced exercises can be completed with ease prior to progressing to strenuous activites.


How can i prevent further injury to my shoulder

  • In oder to prevent re-injury to your shoulder you should work slowly and steadily through the exercises, from early to advanced. It is important not to overload the shoulder too quickly. It is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and include the shoulder exercises for a minimum of 6 month following your injury. Good posture is also important.