Shoulder Rehab Exercises

Call us at 281-633-8600 for an appointment.  In this article and video, Dr. J. Michael Bennett demonstrates the wall walker shoulder rehab exercise he recommends to some of his patients for post-surgery rehabilitation after a shoulder bursectomy or decompression.  Check with your doctor before doing this exercise to ensure that’s it’s appropriate for your shoulder rehab program.  Doctor Bennett specializes in treating issues of the shoulders, elbows, knees, and some hands and wrist injuries from our clinics in Sugar Land, near First Colony Mall, and in Houston, near the Houston Galleria.

This information is for educational purposes only.  It’s not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  You should not start an exercise program or act upon any information provided here without first seeking medical advice from a physician.

Dr. Bennett is both a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and a Fellowship Trained Sports Medicine Physician, and he’s been chosen as a Texas Super Doctor for several years.  You may want to review a video of Dr. Bennett demonstrating a typical shoulder examination to better understand how he might diagnose your shoulder problem.

Here’s a transcript of the video:

Hey guys, this is J. Michael Bennett here, and I’m over at Plex which is an excellent physical therapy facility where they do sports performance and sports specific training and I’m just here to show you some basic exercises on what to do after surgery.

Once again like I said before it all depends on the type of surgery you had; every surgeon has their own post-operative protocol regarding physical therapy and shoulder rehab exercises.  You want to make sure you and your surgeon and your therapist are all on the same page regarding the physical therapy.  So if you had a rotator cuff repair, this is very specific; it can make a big difference on what type of tendon tear you had, whether or not it’s a small tear, a massive tear, whether it involved one, two or three tendons, whether or not it involved the biceps tendon – there’s a lot of different things that come into play in regards to rotator cuff repairs.  Everybody is not equal.  Your buddy, if he had rotator cuff repair and recovered in about six weeks, might be very different than your neighbor, who recovered after a year.  They didn’t have the same surgery.  Your neighbor may have had a massive tear involving all the tendons.  Your friend may have had a small tear involving one anchor, or one small repair there.  It’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges; you never just classify everything as rotator cuff repair.  And make sure that you follow the specific instructions that your surgeon gives you.  

So I just talked about pendulum exercises.  Another good shoulder rehab exercise for anybody that’s just had shoulder surgery – particularly like a decompression or just a bursectomy, where you don’t repair your rotator cuff and you have not repaired any of the tendons but have mainly just had a clean-out procedure removing any bone spurs and everything for all intents and purposes is intact – is an exercise called the Wall Walker.  (The Wall Walker exercise is not recommended following rotator cuff  surgery or tendon repair)

The Wall Walker exercise is very basic.  You’re using the wall for your passive motion.  You’re not doing any active motion in the shoulder.  You’re using the wall for support.  You want to start by facing the wall, have your operative arm touching the wall. And very carefully you’re going to crawl up the wall, like a spider, or a wall walker.  And you’re going to slowly crawl up the wall.  This wall you’re using as a support; you’re not firing any muscles, you’re just letting the wall hold you up.  As you get higher up the wall you need to walk towards the wall where you are pushing your arm into the wall and holding for a count of ten seconds.  You slowly walk back down, very controlled, very slow.  Never, ever let your arm drop.  If you let your arm drop you could injure yourself and potentially damage anything the surgeon has done.  It has to be very controlled and very slow.

Another option is to do it sideways.  Standing sideways to the wall, your hands out to the side, you slowly let your fingers walk up the wall, crawling up very slowly, very controlled.  As you crawl up it, walk towards the wall, pushing your arm into the wall and holding for a count of ten seconds.  Then slowly walk back down, very controlled, very slow.  As I said before, make sure to not let your arm drop, to not let your arm slide, make sure you’re not firing your muscles, just very slow, very controlled.

I don’t usually recommend doing this immediately after any kind of tendon repair; I only instruct doing this later on in that process.  It’s usually pretty early with patients that I’ve had to do a decompression or a bursectomy or even some kind of release or manipulation in the shoulder just to maintain their motion, but I would wait to begin these if you’ve had any kind of repair.

If you have any questions about shoulder rehab exercises or the wall walker exercise, please contact our office at 281-633-8600, for an appointment with Doctor J. Michael Bennett.


Dr. J. Michael Bennett

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