Best Shoulder Exercises after Rotator Cuff Surgery

June 1, 2018

The rotator cuff is a combination of ligaments and tendons that hold the shoulder or arm together. When these tissues get torn or damaged due to an injury, a rotator cuff surgery has to be performed to amend the shoulder.

Apart from post-op medications and precautions, you also have to perform certain exercises to recover and restore the flexibility and mobility of the shoulder. These exercises should be performed very slowly and gently without exerting your shoulder. That is why it is important to consult your physician before performing these exercises. Remember to take off your sling while performing them. If you experience excruciating pain, bleeding or swelling, contact your doctor immediately.

Here are the best shoulder exercises after a rotator cuff surgery:


  • Exercises for the first 6-8 weeks after the operation – passive motion exercises:


  • The pendulum exercise: Lean sideways on a sturdy table with your non-operated forearm resting on it. Gently let loose your operated arm, leaving it hanging and pointing towards the ground. Now very lightly sway your operated back and forth like a pendulum for 10 to 15 seconds without moving your shoulder. After a few seconds pause, very slightly make circling motions with your arm. Repeat this 3 to 6 times a day.


    • Elbow exercise: Standing straight, lift your forearm in such a way that your fingers are at shoulder level and put it back down after a few seconds. Do this 3 to 5 times a day and do 5 sets of this each time.
    • The walking stick exercise: Hold the walking stick horizontally parallel to your torso with your non-operated hand.  Now raise your operated hand to your torso level with the end of the walking stick into your operated arm’s palm. With the non-operated hand, push the walking stick and your operated arm sideways about 6 to 8 inches away from your body. Hold this position for 10 seconds and bring your operated arm back to where it was. Perform this 3 to 5 times a day with 10 sets each time.


  • Exercises for 8 -12 or 14 weeks after the operation – active motion exercises:


    • Shoulder external rotation: hold the walking stick with both your hands in such a manner that both your arms are straight and parallel and the walking stick is horizontally parallel to the back of your thighs. Now gently lift the walking stick away from your body so that your arms stretch to the point where there is a slight movement in your shoulders. Do this 10 times a day.
    • Place the hand of your non-operated arm under the elbow of your operated arm. Now using your non-operated hand as a support, lift your operated arm across your chest at a raised angle. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat this 3 times a day with 10 sets each time.
    • Lie down on your back and with both hands, hold a walking stick parallel to your chest and your elbows, perpendicular to the bed. Now lift the walking stick, gently stretching your arms over your head. Repeat this 3 times a day with 10 sets each time.



  • Advance strengthening exercises -To be performed 14 to 18 weeks post-op, 3 times a week:


  • Hold an exercise stretch band in your operated hand and stand with your back towards the source-point of the stretch band. Now gently stretch or pull your arm forward to shoulder level. Do it 10 times, twice in the day.
  • Place your operated hand on the side of a wall. Holding the wall, now rotate your torso away from the arm till you feel a stretch in your shoulder. This can be done at elbow level and shoulder level. Do it for 10 times twice in the day.



For the best exercise guidance post the rotator cuff surgery, you will need to consult an expert Orthopaedist. Choose your orthopedic surgeon wisely by booking a consultation with Apollo Spectra.

Related Post: symptoms & causes of rotator cuff