Shoulder Post-Op Rehabilitation: A Comprehensive Guide to Recovery 


Undergoing shoulder surgery marks the beginning of a transformative journey towards regaining strength, mobility, and function in your shoulder joint. Whether you’ve had a rotator cuff repair, labral reconstruction, or another shoulder procedure, post-operative rehabilitation plays a crucial role in achieving optimal outcomes. In this blog, we’ll explore a comprehensive guide to shoulder post-op rehabilitation, highlighting key exercises and considerations for a successful recovery. 

Early Stage Rehabilitation: 

In the initial days and weeks following shoulder surgery, the focus is on gentle movements to prevent stiffness, enhance blood circulation, and promote healing. Many post op shoulder surgeries require you to be a sling for 6 weeks. Early stage exercises may include: 

  • Pendulum Exercises: 
  • Stand or sit with your unaffected arm supported on a surface. 
  • Allow your recovering arm to hang freely. 
  • Gently sway your arm in small circular motions, both clockwise and counterclockwise. 
  • You can remove your sling during this exercises. 
  • Perform this exercise for 2-3 minutes, 3xday to encourage motion.  

Range of Motion Exercises: 

  • Active Assisted Shoulder Flexion: 
  • Stand or sit with a small towel or strap in your recovering hand. 
  • Use your unaffected hand to gently assist the recovering arm in lifting forward and upward. 
  • Control the motion to avoid straining the shoulder. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 reps, 3xday. 
  • Gradually increase the range of motion over time. 
  • Finger-Walk Up the Wall: 
  • Stand facing a wall with your fingertips touching the wall at waist height. 
  • Slowly walk your fingers up the wall, reaching as high as comfortable. 
  • Walk your fingers back down. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 reps, 3xday. 
  • Adjust the distance from the wall to control the intensity of the stretch. 
  • Table Slides: 
  • Sit at a table with your hands placed in front of you and your palms down. 
  • Slide your hands forward, allowing your body to move with them. 
  • Return to the starting position by sliding your hands back. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 reps, 3xday. 
  • Focus on maintaining a smooth, controlled motion. 

Strengthening Exercises: 

  • Isometric Shoulder Flexion: 
  • Sit or stand with your back straight. 
  • Place your hands on the front of your thighs. 
  • Press your palms down into your thighs, engaging the front shoulder muscles. 
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds and relax. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2xday. 
  •  Isometric Shoulder External Rotation: 
  • Use a resistance band or a similar tool. 
  • Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle, keeping it close to your side. 
  • Hold the band with your hand and rotate your forearm outward against the resistance. 
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds and release. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2xday. 
  • Shoulder External Rotation with Band: 
  • Secure a resistance band to a fixed point at waist height. 
  • Hold the band with your hand, keeping your elbow close to your side. 
  • Rotate your forearm outward against the band’s resistance. 
  • Slowly return to the starting position. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2xday. 
  • Scapular Retractions: 
  • Sit or stand with your arms at your sides. 
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, pulling them down towards your spine. 
  • Hold for a few seconds and release. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2xday. 
  • Wall Angels: 
  • Stand with your back against a wall. 
  • Slowly raise your arms overhead, sliding them up the wall. 
  • Lower your arms back down to the starting position. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2xday. 
  • Shoulder Press with Light Dumbbells: 
  • Sit or stand with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward. 
  • Lift the dumbbells overhead, extending your arms fully. 
  • Lower the dumbbells back down to shoulder level. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2xday. 
  • Prone Y’s and T’s: 
  • Lie face down on a bench or physio ball, arms hanging straight down. 
  • Lift your arms diagonally into a Y shape and hold for a few seconds. 
  • Then, move your arms straight out to the sides into a T shape. 
  • Lower your arms back down and repeat. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 reps, 2xday. 

Please note to follow these exercises at your discretion. All shoulder surgeries are different, and some have precautions that you should be mindful of. Please consult your doctor or physiotherapist regarding safety of these exercises:  

What our physiotherapists can do for you:  


  1. Manual Therapy / Stretching: Our physiotherapists are all trained in evidence based manual therapy techniques that can help aid you through your recovery quicker. Manual therapy is designed to help with increasing range of motion and decreasing pain and stiffness. Shoulders require a lot of mobility which is what manual therapy helps in maximizing. 
  1. Prescribing Exercises: As mentioned above, exercises are the key to a proper shoulder replacement recovery. Our physiotherapists all specialize in prescribing and modifying exercises to make your journey easier. Shoulders are extremely complex joints and there a plethora of different exercises that can help facilitate proper healing. 


Incorporating these post-operative strengthening exercises into your rehabilitation routine, under the guidance of your healthcare provider or physical therapist, can significantly contribute to the rebuilding of shoulder strength. Our physiotherapists at Revere Physiotherapy have a combined 10+ years working at hospitals around the lower mainland and specialize in shoulder surgery rehabilitation. Remember, always consult with your healthcare team before starting any exercise regimen to ensure it aligns with your individual recovery needs. 

Reach out to us at with questions regarding your recovery!  


We also offer free 10 minute consultations to help you determine fit. Call us at 604-566-5108 and we will set you up with one of our expert physiotherapists.   


Book an appointment right away if you feel ready to do so!  

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