How to Recover from an Injured Shoulder

Five Methods:Isometric exercisesResistance exercisesStability exercisesAdvanced exercisesKeeping healthy

If you have dislocated or injured your shoulder, with a little bit of time, discipline, and rehabilitation, you'll eventually forget you even had an injury. This provides some suggestions to help you recover from an injured shoulder.


  1. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 1
    Take appropriate precautions. Do not perform any unnecessary movement of the affected shoulder for at least two weeks after reduction (putting the shoulder back into the socket). During this time, the joint is at its most unstable and is highly susceptible to further dislocation.
    • Keep the arm in a sling whenever possible and apply ice to help with the swelling. A doctor may prescribe medication for pain, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs; use these as directed.
    • It is important to keep your injured shoulder within a 90-degree movement plane from your body (90 degrees in front and to the sides). Moving beyond this point increases the likelihood of further injuring your shoulder.
  2. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 2
    Use proper shoulder positioning. While your shoulder is healing, it is important to learn proper positioning for maximum stabilization and health. The position recommended is called the “packed” position.
    • This involves the shoulders being pulled down and backward, as well as rotated outward. A good way to think about this is to pretend you have a tennis ball between your shoulders that you are trying to hold in place.
    • Another way to get into this position is to hold your arms at your sides and bend your elbows into a 90-degree angle. Once in this position and without moving your elbows, move your hands away from each other until you feel your shoulder and back muscles lightly contract. This will be called the standard position and is how each of the following exercises begins.

Method 1
Isometric exercises

  1. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 3
    Perform isometric exercises. Begin your active rehabilitation with three isometric exercises (contractions that don't cause any motion).
    • The first exercise is done while facing a wall with your injured shoulder in-line with your upper body and your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Move up to the wall until your fist is in contact and then slowly apply pressure by pushing your first into the wall.
    • The second exercise starts with you in the same body alignment as the first exercise, but instead, contact the wall with your elbow through to your hand. Slowly try to raise your arm to the side while maintaining proper posture.
    • The third exercise begins the same position, but place your body so that the wall is in contact with the back of your shoulder. Pull your arms backwards while keeping them in-line with your body.
    • Perform each exercise with 10 to 15 second intervals and 2 sets of each. Perform each workout 1-2 times daily.

Method 2
Resistance exercises

  1. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 4
    Do resistance exercises. After you have developed enough strength and stability in the joint to raise your arms parallel to the ground with experiencing little to no pain, you may consider moving on to more demanding exercises. The next three exercises are similar to the first three, but add movement. For these exercises, use resistance from either resistance bands or weights. Be sure not to push yourself too hard, and stop if you feel unusual pain.
    • The front shoulder raise: (above) Begin in the standard position with either a weight or resistance band in your hand. Palms facing down, raise your arm until your forearm is parallel to the ground, pause for one second and then lower to the starting position. Keep the range of motion limited to parallel with the ground or below. Going any higher may put unnecessary strain on your joint.
    • The side shoulder raise: (above) involves having your palms down, facing your side and raising your shoulder until it is parallel to the ground. Pause and then lower.
    • The standing row: (right) involves holding a resistance band that is tethered directly in front of your body, in a straight path from your forearm. From the starting position, allow your arm to move forward until almost fully extended. At this position, pause and then return to the starting position by pulling the band.
  2. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 5
    Build up your rotator cuffs and stability muscles of the shoulder with the following two exercises:
    • The internal shoulder rotation (right): Begin by standing upright in the standard exercise position with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Grab a resistance band that is tethered in a way that when your arm is rotated away from your body, the band is slack. Rotate your arm inwards towards your body and hold for one second. Slowly return your arm to the starting position.
    • The external shoulder rotation (right): utilizes the same movement pattern as the internal shoulder rotation, except that the starting position begins with your arm already internally rotated. From here, rotate your arm out and hold for one second before returning to the starting position.
  3. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 6
    Use the next three exercises to further serve to help you in recovery:
    • The first exercise: Lie on your stomach (on the edge of a bed or equivalent) with your arms straight in front of you. Either with or without free weights, move your arms down towards your feet until they are parallel with your body. Pause for one second and then slowly return to the starting position.
    • The second exercise: Begin by laying on your stomach and move your hands, palms down, away from each other while keeping them perpendicular to the plane of your body. Once your arms are parallel to the ground, pause, and then slowly lower to starting position.
    • The third exercise (shoulder flexion): Stand with your arms to your sides. Raise your arms while keeping them at a 45-degree angle directly in front of you. Pause for one second at the top and then lower them back to starting position.

Method 3
Stability exercises

  1. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 7
    Do stability exercises. Building back the stability of the joint and your ability to control its movement is imperative. Implement the following exercises into your regimen 4 and 6 weeks after the initial injury.
    • The first exercise is similar to the one arm plank. Begin on your hands and knees and place your weight on the injured arm (up to 10 seconds at a time). Switch to the uninjured arm for the same time and repeat. If at any point you feel the joint is unstable or is in unusual pain stop the exercise immediately.
    • The second exercise is a wall push up. Start by standing with your arms out in front of you touching a wall and parallel to the ground. Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body, and allow them to travel to a position that makes your upper arm in-line with your body. Hold this position for one second and then push away from your body until arms are extended but not locked.

Method 4
Advanced exercises

  1. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 8
    Do advanced exercises. The following exercises are more advanced and will demand more from your shoulders than the previous ones. Only attempt these after your strength has increased greatly, and you no longer feel any pain while completing them.
    • The push up is done in a similar fashion to the wall push up, except it starts on the ground opposed to standing upright. Stretch out until your legs and upper body are extended. With your hands at shoulder width and in-line with each other, lower your upper body while allowing your elbows to travel at a 90-degree angle to your body. Stop yourself when your elbow is at a 90-degree angle or when your upper arm is in-line with your body. Extend your arms back to the starting position.
    • The dumbbell thruster/press (above) begins in a standing position with dumbbells in both hands (this position is essentially a modification of the first exercise given in step three). Bring the dumbbells to a starting position even with your chest. Raise the dumbbells straight up while keeping your forearms perpendicular to the ground. After fully extending your arms, pause for one second and then slowly lower the weight to the starting position.
    • The one arm row begins by having your right arm and right leg resting on a bench while your left leg and left arm (holding a dumbbell) is down in a full extension of the arm. Pull the weight towards you and let your upper arm follow closely to your side. After your arm has reached 90-degrees with your body, pause for one second and lower the weight back to the starting position. Be sure to keep your back as straight as possible and in a neutral spine position.

Method 5
Keeping healthy

  1. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 9
    Get proper nutrition and adequate sleep. While healing from this injury, it is important to give your body enough nutrients. This is not the time to go on a diet as your caloric needs are higher due to the increased demands your body needs while healing.
  2. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 10
    Eat a balanced meal of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains is important, but by far the most important macro-nutrient is protein. An average of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is sufficient.
  3. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 11
    Sleep sufficiently. Along with a healthy diet, it is recommended that after suffering a traumatic injury you should get plenty of sleep. Eight hours or more per night is recommended for most people.
  4. Image titled Recover from an Injured Shoulder Step 12
    Continue with your rehabilitation. Continue your rehabilitation by increasing weight and repetitions of each exercise until your full shoulder function has returned. Do not be discouraged if the healing process takes longer than you anticipate. Shoulder injuries can take up to a year to fully heal. Progress may seem slow but if rushed and done improperly, there is a high likelihood of re-injuring yourself and having to undergo surgery.
    • More exercises may be found online or by consulting with a physical trainer.


  • Use moderation. Injuring a shoulder can be very stressful on the body. Time is the key factor; do not try to rush the recovery process. The best way to regain strength is to start slow and work your way up. Begin by resting for the first couple of weeks. Once deemed suitable by a doctor, perform only one or two exercises a day. Increase the intensity of the exercises the following weeks by adding weight, more reps, and/or other resisted movements. Continue this process for several weeks.


  • It is important to first seek medical attention after injuring a shoulder. Do not perform any exercises until cleared by a doctor. Start with low weight and high repetitions, be able to do at least 15 slow repetitions before increasing weight. Jumping into exercises too quickly after injury can cause further injury of the shoulder.
  • Soreness is expected, however, if you experience any pain or extreme discomfort in the shoulder, do not attempt any other exercises, instead, contact a doctor.
  • Be careful when using anti-inflammatory drugs; only take the prescribed amount. Be sure to educate yourself on the side effects before taking any medication.
  • Pain is not the only sign for overuse, if at any time your shoulder feels unstable cease the activity.

Article Info

Categories: Injury and Accidents