It can sometimes be hard to convince patients that rehabilitation after shoulder or elbow injury is a critical part of their treatment. However, without it you can be left with stiffness, loss of movement or weakness, which may become permanent.
We advise patients that if you want to make a full return to an active, healthy lifestyle after you’ve been injured, it is important to follow the recommended rehabilitation programme. These are supervised by a physiotherapist, often with input from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon.
What is rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation is a structured conditioning programme that uses specially-devised exercises to help you rebuild strength and flexibility in the affected limb. This is particularly important if you have had surgery.
Most rehabilitation programmes last around four to six weeks. We normally recommend short bursts of exercise – 10 or 15 minutes – two or three times a day. You will be shown how to do the exercises by your physiotherapist and it’s important to do them exactly as demonstrated to avoid the risk of further injury. Use pain as your guide. It is normal to experience mild discomfort but if you start to develop pain when exercising, you should stop. And don’t do more than the recommended amount of exercise. Doing too much too soon can delay the healing process.
Why is it important?
Here’s why rehabilitation is so important:
- It strengthens your muscles – if you have injured your shoulder, strengthening the muscles that support it can improve stability and help prevent further injury. Strengthening your muscles can also reduce pain.
- It stretches your muscles which helps to increase flexibility and restore a full range of motion. Often you will be asked to stretch after muscle strengthening exercises. This is because keeping muscles long and flexible helps to reduce soreness.
- It targets key muscles – the programme will be especially devised to target those muscles that will be most helpful in supporting your recovery, In a shoulder injury, for example, these might include the deltoids which run along the front, back and over the shoulder and the subscapularis at the front of the shoulder.
Rehabilitation: Our unique approach
Here at Thames Shoulder and Elbow we have developed our own unique approach to advise you and your physiotherapist how best to rebalance your shoulder joint and promote healing.
General approaches after injury
Here are some further tips for rehabilitation after injury:
Shoulder dislocation: Initially you will need a sling but you should seek help from a physiotherapist as soon as possible. As you start to recover you will be given a wider range of exercises to improve the strength and control of your muscles.
Shoulder fracture: Once the fracture begins to heal it is important to exercise to avoid joint stiffness. Your rehabilitation programme will focus on building up slowly and steadily.
Shoulder and elbow surgery: Depending on the procedure performed, you will be given a rehabilitation programme that begins with gentle movements and stretches before progressing to harder exercises designed to strengthen the muscles.
Orthopaedic Consultant & Surgeon | London
If you sustain an injury, it is important to seek professional help. An orthopaedic surgeon can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend the most effective type of treatment, which may include surgery.
Supporting you with rehabilitation following treatment can help you to heal as quickly and as fully as you can, so that you can get back to your everyday life.