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Shoulder Active Range of Motion Exercises

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Updated December 31, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Shoulder Active Range of Motion Exercises
Shoulder abduction active range of motion.

Start sidelying shoulder abduction by lying on one side with your shoulder and arm resting on your hip.

Brett Sears, PT, 2011

If you have shoulder pain, you may benefit from physical therapy to ease painful symptoms and improve your shoulder strength and range of motion (ROM) so that you can return to normal function.

Your physical therapist should work with you to perform shoulder special tests and to help determine the cause of your shoulder pain. A loss of ROM around your shoulder joint is a common finding in people with shoulder pain. Also, you may have decreased shoulder ROM if you have had shoulder surgery like a rotator cuff or labrum repair.

Your physical therapist will help to progress you through a safe and effective exercise program to help you restore normal ROM in your shoulder. The typical progression to restore normal, pain-free ROM to your shoulder begins first with passive ROM. Shoulder pulleys can be used to help regain passive ROM. Once passive ROM is restored, you may progress to performing active-assistive ROM exercises, and finally active ROM exercises.

The exercises in this steb-by-step guide are meant to help you restore active range of motion to your shoulder. You must first check with your doctor or physical therapist to ensure that theses exercises are safe and appropriate for you to perform. If any of these exercises cause pain, you should stop immediately and consult with your doctor.

To begin the shoulder active ROM exercises, lie on one side. The shoulder that you are exercising should be on top. Keep your elbow straight and your thumb pointing towards the ceiling.

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