Reverse Shoulder Replacement Recovery: Strengthening Exercises

The reverse shoulder replacement has a specific design that takes advantage of your large deltoid muscle.  So even if your rotator cuff is damaged, overhead movement is preserved. Strengthening exercises in physical therapy targets your deltoid muscle and the muscles attaching to your shoulder blade.  This articles shows you 5 of the most common strengthening exercises we prescribe to help with your reverse shoulder replacement recovery.

Shoulder Replacement Recovery: Returning to Sport

Many people pursue shoulder replacement surgery with expectations of returning to their favorite activities or sports.  A 2020 systematic review investigated the rate of return to sport in patients recovering from shoulder replacement surgery.  This paper included 12 different studies looking at patients after shoulder replacement surgery.   Overall, 82% of patients returned to playing their favorite sport.  Swimming showed the highest rate of return (84%), followed by fitness (77%), golf (77%), and tennis (69%).  Strengthening your shoulder is key to returning to these types of activities.

Reverse Shoulder Replacement Recovery: The Basics of Strength Training

For the best reverse shoulder replacement recovery you will need to be diligent with your strengthening exercises.  Light strengthening exercises begin 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery.  Again, the focus is on improving the strength of your deltoid muscle and the muscles that attach to your shoulder blade.  Strengthening exercise are performed once daily 3 to 5 times per week.  Initially, start with 15 repetitions per set.  Also, we recommend 2 to 3 sets of each exercise.  As you progress, increase the resistance as you lower the reps to 10 per set.

Band Forward Elevation in Supine

Lying on your back to exercise minimizes the effect of gravity.  This makes it ideal to begin exercising with light resistance while protecting your healing shoulder. To perform this exercise begin on your back holding a resistance band in your uninvolved side hand at waist level. Your involved side shoulder starts flexed 90° with your elbow straight holding the band in a thumb-up position. Place minimal tension on the band in this starting position.  Then, actively lift your arm into forward elevation to approximately 160°.  This will lengthen the band.  Pause 2 to 3 seconds at the top.  Finally, lower slowly back to the starting position.  Perform 10 to 15 repetitions for 2 to 3 sets each day.

Press-Up in Standing

Initially, perform this exercise without any weight.  As your strength improves, add 1 to 2 pounds.  Start in a standing position with your hand close to your body and elbow bent.  Perform an overhead pressing movement.  Straighten your elbow as your arm passes overhead.  Hold for 2 to 3 seconds before slowly lowering your arm back down to the starting position.  Perform 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions each day.   It is important to avoid “shrugging” your shoulder or arching your low back.

Prone Row

Begin lying on your stomach holding a dumbbell.  Start with your arm in an extended position.  Perform a row.  Your elbow stays close but not all the way against the side of your body.  Hold the top position for 1-2 seconds before slowly lowering the weight.  It is important to pull your shoulder blade back as you raise your elbow.  Avoid overextending and shrugging your shoulder.  Perform 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions each day.

Prone Horizontal Abduction

Lie face down with your arm over the side of a bed or bench.  With your thumb up and arm straight lift toward the ceiling at a 90-degree angle (the 9:00 and 3:00 positions of a clock).  This position is aligned with the muscle fibers of your middle trapezius.  Be careful to avoid shrugging your entire shoulder as you raise your arm.  Instead, think about tilting your shoulder blade backward as you raise your arm.  Pause at the top of the movement before returning to the start position in a controlled manner.  Perform 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day.

Serratus Wall Slide with Foam Roll

Begin with your forearms resting on a foam roll against the wall placed at shoulder height.  Protract the shoulder blades by pushing your upper back away from the wall.  This activates your serratus anterior muscle.  Next, “roll” your forearms up the wall in a controlled manner, making sure you don’t lose the protraction.  Return back to the starting point in a controlled manner.  Perform 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day.

Final Thoughts on Your Shoulder Replacement Recovery

Performing a gradual and progressive strength training program will optimize your reverse shoulder replacement recovery.   Everyone progresses at a different rate.  Your physical therapist will be your guide as you work towards your goals.  Most people return to their favorite sports or activities within 3 to 6 months.  This of course, assumes you have restored 85% to 90% of your shoulder strength.  If you would like help developing the best individually-tailored exercise program give us a call.


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