Shoulder Labrum Tear Exercise Program

If you have a shoulder labrum tear, you may benefit from physical therapy to help control your shoulder pain and improve the way you are able to use your arm. Your PT will likely prescribe exercises for you to do as a part of your rehab program for your shoulder labrum tear. You may do exercises in the PT clinic, or you may be required to perform exercises independently as part of your home exercise program.

The labrum of the shoulder helps to deepen the socket, and if it is torn you may experience a feeling like the joint is "loose" or that your shoulder dislocates easily. It may feel wobbly when you reach overhead or when you lift items. Physical therapy for a shoulder labrum tear will likely focus on improving overall shoulder strength and stability. Sometimes, working to restore normal range of motion (ROM) in your shoulder may also be incorporated into your shoulder labrum exercise program.

Here is a step-by-step progression of a PT exercise program for a shoulder labrum tear. It may be similar to one that your own physical therapist prescribes for you to do. Remember, your PT program after a shoulder labrum tear should be personalized and specific to your needs. Check in with your doctor before starting any exercise program to be sure that exercise is safe for you to do.


Range of Motion Exercises

A therapist stretching a patient's shoulder.

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A labrum injury typically causes a "loose" feeling in your shoulder or may feel like your shoulder will fall out of joint. So why work on range of motion? Because sometimes the motion that you have in your shoulder may be abnormal after a labrum tear. Exercise to restore the normal way your shoulder moves may be necessary before progressing to any strengthening exercises.

Exercises for shoulder ROM may include:

Be sure to move your shoulder through its full ROM, and stop if you feel pain or shoulder instability as you perform the exercises. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions of shoulder ROM exercises two to three times each day.


Rotator Cuff Strengthening

Photo of a man with drawn on muscles for arms.
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The shoulder labrum improves stability to your shoulder joint, and a tear may make your shoulder unstable. So how can you regain a stable shoulder joint? Rotator cuff strengthening can help improve the dynamic stability to your shoulder joint.

Exercises for your rotator cuff may be prescribed by your PT after a shoulder labrum tear. Exercises may include:

Each exercise can be done 10 to 15 repetitions three or four times per week. Be sure to stop any rotator cuff exercise if you feel shoulder pain or if your shoulder feels like it may fall out of joint.

Typically, exercises start with rotator cuff strengthening with your arm at your side; the shoulder joint is more stable here. As you get stronger, your PT may have you work on rotator cuff strengthening with your arm away from your body and up in the air. This is more challenging to your shoulder muscles, but it may be a necessary progression to fully recover after a shoulder labrum tear.


Scapular Stability

The prone row is a great scapular stabilization exercise.
Brett Sears, PT, 2011

Your scapula is a major component of your entire shoulder joint complex, and it should not be ignored when working on exercises after a shoulder labrum tear. Your physical therapist may prescribe scapular stabilization exercises for you to do to normalize shoulder mobility and function.

Scapular stability exercises progress through exercises lying on your tummy to exercises performed in side lying. The prone I, T, and Y and the prone row are standard scapular stability exercises; your PT can should you how to do them properly. You may also work on scapular strengthening and control using weight machines.

Each scapular stability exercise should be done slowly for 10 to 15 repetitions, and you can increase the challenge by holding a small weight or dumbbell in your hand as you do the exercises.


Shoulder Proprioception and Balance

Photo of a women exercising in quadruped.
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Believe it or not, you need good balance in your shoulders to effectively use your arms. Awareness of where your shoulder is in space as you move around is important, and this awareness—or proprioception—may be impaired after a shoulder labrum tear. Your physical therapist may give you some exercises to do to improve shoulder balance and proprioception.

The isometric dynamic shoulder exercise may be done with a resistance band. To do it, lie down on your back with your arm up towards the ceiling. Hold onto one end of a resistance band, and have a friend hold the other end. Your friend can walk around you in various directions, altering the amount of resistance on the band as you hold your arm steady. Perform the exercise for 30 to 60 seconds and then rest. You can make the exercise more challenging by closing your eyes during the motion.

In the clinic, a BAPS board or wobble board may be used as an unstable surface to help improve your shoulder proprioception. Your PT may have you work in a push-up position or in quadruped--on all fours like crawling—to improve shoulder balance while using a wobble board. These exercises can be replicated by performing the shoulder weight-bearing exercises in quadruped at home.


Return to Full Function

Photo of a woman mechanic working on a car.
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One of the most important components of your PT program after a shoulder labrum tear is to help you return to your normal function and activity. Everyone's activity level is different, so this part of your rehab should be personalized to your needs.

If your work requires you perform activities with your arms overhead, your PT may prescribe specific exercises that mimic your job responsibilities.

Athletes working to return to their respective sports may need specific exercises to get back to normal participation. Baseball players may benefit from the thrower's 10 exercise program after a labrum tear or labrum repair surgery. If you are a tennis player, you may need to perform specific tennis swinging exercises, and golfers may need different exercises to get back on the course after a shoulder labrum tear.

If you have a shoulder labrum tear, you may benefit from a physical therapy exercise program to help improve the way your shoulder moves and functions. Your PT can show you how to do the exercises properly so you can quickly and safely get back to your normal pain-free activity level.

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