Make Your Own Shoulder Pulleys

After a shoulder injury, one goal of rehab is to improve your shoulder range of motion and mobility. Some PT programs use shoulder pulleys to accomplish this task. If you are using shoulder pulleys in the PT clinic during your rotator cuff rehab, you may benefit from making your own pulley system to use at home. This is how you do it.

Shoulder pulleys are an exercise tool commonly found in physical therapy clinics. The pulleys are used to perform exercises to help improve the range of motion of your shoulders.

Common problems that may require you to use shoulder pulleys include, but are not limited to:

If you are having shoulder pain or are having difficulty using your arm because of a shoulder problem, you should visit your doctor or physical therapist. Your physical therapist will likely prescribe exercises to help improve the range of motion and strength in your shoulder in order to help you return to normal function.

Your physical therapist may ask that you perform your shoulder pulley exercises as a part of your home exercise program. You can purchase shoulder pulleys, but they can be easily be made by following this step-by-step guide.


Gather Supplies and Cut a Foot-Long Length of Line

Make the top hanger by cutting a length of line approximately one foot long.
Cut a length of clothesline about one foot long. Brett Sears, PT, 2012

To begin, you must first obtain a small utility pulley and some polyester clothesline. These items are available at your local hardware store. You must be sure that your clothesline is not too big to fit in the pulley or too small to slip out of the pulley. Ask for help at the store if you are unsure of what size pulley or clothesline to purchase.

You will also need household scissors to cut the clothesline to the correct length to properly use your pulleys.

Once you have obtained all of the necessary supplies, it is time to get to work making your own shoulder pulleys. First cut a length of clothesline about one foot long. This piece will serve as a hanger from which your shoulder pulleys will hang.


Tie the Line to Your Pulley

Tie a rope to the top of the pulley.
Brett Sears, PT, 2012

Tie your foot-long piece of clothesline to the top of your pulley. This will hang from your door. You will be pulling on the pulley during your exercises, so make sure that your knot is secure so it won't slip out from the pulley.


Tie a Knot in the Top of Your Line

The knot in the top of the line hangs over your door.
Brett Sears, PT, 2012

Tie a knot in the top part of your foot-long piece of line. This knot will help hold your shoulder pulley securely over your door. Make sure the knot is big enough that it will be held securely in place while hanging over your door. (The knot gets pinched between your door and the door jamb.) If the knot is too small, the pulley system will fall off the top of the door.


Feed Your Clothesline Through Your Pulley

Tie a loop in the end of your clothesline after feeding it through the pulley.
Brett Sears, PT, 2012

Cut another piece of clothesline about nine or 10 feet long. Don't worry if it is too long; you can adjust the size of the pulley line to fit your personal needs. Then feed one end through your pulley.

Tie a loop that your hand can fit into in the end of your line. This serves as a handle for your pulley system. The loop also helps to prevent your line from slipping out of the pulley.


Tie a Handle in the Other End

Make sure you tie a loop in both ends of the line of your homemade pulleys.
Brett Sears, PT, 2012

Tie another loop and knot in the opposite end of your clothesline. Again, this prevents your line from slipping out of the pulley, and it serves as a handle to grab on to while performing your shoulder exercises.

Your shoulder pulleys are now complete. The final step is to hang the pulley system over your door.


Hang Your Shoulder Pulleys

Homemade shoulder pulley system.
Brett Sears, PT, 2012

Once you have made your shoulder pulleys, you must hang them over your door. Place the small rope that is attached to the top of your pulley over your door. Make sure that the knot in the line is all the way over your door, and then close your door. Gently pull on your pulley to make sure that it is securely fastened.

You are now ready to perform shoulder pulley exercises at home. Speak with your doctor or physical therapist to understand which shoulder stretches are appropriate for you to perform.

Once appropriate healing has taken place, you may wish to progress from shoulder range of motion exercises to more active shoulder exercises and shoulder resistance exercises. Again, speak with your phyiscal therapist to understand exactly what exercises are best for your specific situation. Some people benefit from performing shoulder range of motion exercises to help prevent shoulder problems.

A Word From Verywell

If you have a shoulder or upper extremity injury, you may benefit from physical therapy to improve your shoulder range of motion. You may use pulleys in the PT clinic, and you may benefit from using them at home. Homemade shoulder pulleys are a simple and cost effective way to perform shoulder range of motion exercises at home. That way you can quickly and safely recover from your shoulder injury.

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