Shoulder Rehab – Range of Motion (ROM) Evaluation and Stretches
1. Range of Motion (ROM) Evaluation – Move both shoulders through the largest possible ROM without pain. If you start feeling any discomfort, stop or shorten that motion. There are 2 goals during this process: Finding any movements that cause pain or where you have a limited ROM and comparing your right arm to your left to see if there are any significant differences between them.
2. Increasing ROM – Use slow and controlled movements to guide your arms/shoulders through your pain free ranges of motion. This movement help loosen up the shoulder joint and is the first step in regaining your full ROM.
3. Stretching – Stretching is a critical element in any rehab program. During this phase, mild to moderate stretching should not cause discomfort, but if you apply too much force or move your shoulder in the wrong positions it can cause pain. As always, if it hurts, don’t do it. My general approach is to start using stretches for nearby muscles and then use stretches that more directly target the injured area.
4. The Stretches:
A. Chest Doorway Stretch (almost straight or bent elbow) – This stretch has a some shoulder involvement, but it should focus as much as possible on the chest and not the shoulder.
B. Lat Doorway Stretch – This stretch focuses on the lats and these muscles are usually much tighter than people expect. Tight lats also contribute to shoulder tightness and discomfort.
C. Upper Back/Lat Doorway Stretch – A similar stretch to the lat stretch, except it targets a higher part of the back, as well as the back of the shoulder.
D. Pull Arm Across Body Shoulder Stretch – This stretch directly targets the shoulder and is perhaps the most common shoulder stretch, but it’s often performed improperly. Always keep the arm a little below shoulder level (angled slightly downward).
E. Arm Straight Back (Palm Up) Shoulder Stretch – One of the most effective shoulder stretches, but if the shoulder is excessively tight or there is inflammation in the shoulder, it’s counter productive. Only use this stretch if you can get into position without any discomfort.
F. Chair Neck Stretches – These are not directly for the shoulder, but when someone’s shoulder is tight or injured, at least some neck muscles are usually tight as well. It is easy to overstretch neck muscles, so go slowly and stop or release tension if there is any discomfort.