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How to Strengthen the Shoulder With a Labral Tear

Following a diagnosis of a labral or SLAP tear (Superior Labral tear from Anterior to Posterior) by your physician, follow your prescribed treatment plan. Exercising with a torn labrum, the cartilage that helps hold your shoulder joint together, will make it worse, and may cause you to require surgery. Following treatment, a few exercises will strengthen the muscles surrounding your shoulder joint, helping you heal and resisting your chances of incurring an additional tear. Should you feel pain during any of the exercises, stop exercising immediately. Should the pain persist, consult your physician.

Initial Recovery

  1. Stand with your back flat against a wall. Stretch your arms straight overhead. While keeping your elbows and forearms flat against the wall, pull your elbows down the wall while keeping your forearms vertical and flat against the wall. Your elbows should move in an arc as this occurs. Return to your starting position.

  2. Hold your arms straight out to your sides, palms facing down. Hold this position for at least one minute. Repeat at least five times.

  3. Hold your arms straight out to your sides, palms facing down. Without bending your elbows, rotate your arms in a circle for 30 seconds. Then switch directions and rotate the other direction. Continue with this protocol on a daily basis until you can do so without pain.

Rehabilitation

  1. Strengthen your external rotators -- muscles that help stabilize your shoulder joint -- by performing dumbbell external rotations. Lying on one side hold a light dumbbell in the hand of your upper arm. Place a towel under your working arm against your side, and point your arm straight down. Bend your elbow 90 degrees, then allow your hand with the dumbbell in it to move towards the floor without moving your upper arm. Rotate your forearm back up as far as you can. Repeat this exercise for three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

  2. Perform additional exercises for your external rotators using a resistance band. Attach the band to a solid support and sit on the floor. Rest your arm on a surface that allows it to stick straight out to the side. Grip the band with this arm with an overhand grip and bend your elbow 90 degrees, until your forearm is pointing in the same direction as the band. Rotate your arm against the resistance of the band until your forearm is pointing at the ceiling. No other movement of your arm should take place. Perform this exercise for three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

  3. Strengthen your internal rotators using a resistance band. Attach the band to a fixed point, grip the band and step away until there is no slack left in the band. Tuck your elbow in to your side tightly, and stand so that your forearm is pointing the same direction as the band. Rotate your upper arm, moving your forearm across your body through the fullest range of motion possible, then return to your original position. Perform this exercise for three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

  4. Train both your internal and external rotators three times a week, but with one day of rest between each training session.

    Tip

    Watch yourself in a mirror to ensure that your upper arm is not moving other than rotating.

    Warning

    Perform no other exercises that strain your shoulder until you are cleared by your physician and physical therapist. Otherwise, your potential for re-injury increases and you will get to know both of them much better.

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Things Needed

  • Dumbbell
  • Towel
  • Resistance band

About the Author

Grey Evans began writing professionally in 1985. Her work has been published in "Metabolics" and the "Journal of Nutrition." Gibbs holds a Ph.D. in nutrition from Ohio State University and an M.S. in physical therapy from New York University. She has worked at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and currently develops comprehensive nutritional and rehabilitative programs for a neurological team.

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