Post-Operative Exercises: Shoulder Surgery

This guide should be used to guide your post-operative shoulder exercises for the first two weeks following your surgery.

Dr James McLean will advise any changes or alterations which need to be made to this program for your individual case.

General Post-Operative Patient Advice

Shoulder surgery - first two post-operative weeks


  • To protect your surgical repair and allow healing
  • To prevent stiffness that may result from inactivity of joints that are not moved for a long period of time.


  • Keep yourn dressing clean and dry until your first review
  • Avoid using a sling which will potentiate more scarring and shoulder stiffness


To avoid disappointment, ask Dr McLean to clarify your restrictions prior to surgery to avoid disappointment

For 6 weeks following the operation, with the operated arm:

  • No lifting anything heavier than a ‘cup-of –tea’
  • No pulling or pushing
  • No assistive ambulation device should be used (i.e. a walking stick, crutches)
  • No driving until you are able to meet the safe driving considerations (outlined here)

Post-Operative Exercises

These exercises can be performed on your own, at home, after your surgery

  • Starting immediately, please perform the exercises at least 5 times a day for 10 repetitions (minimum)
  • Unrestricted range of motion of your elbow, wrist and hand is highly recommended to avoid stiffness in these joints
  • Physiotherapy is highly recommended to maximise the gains achieved intra-operatively.

1. Pendulum Exercises

  1. Bend forward at the waist, using a table for support.
  2. Rock your body in a circular motion to move your arm clockwise 10 times (minimum).
  3. Repeat circular motion in a counter-clockwise direction 10 times (minimum).
Pendulum shoulder exercise

2. Passive and Active Arm Elevations

This exercise can be performed sitting or lying down.

1. ‘Passive’ means not using the muscles of your operated arm to lift your shoulder. Instead, you lift your arm with your opposite arm (i.e. the arm that was not operated on).

2. Grasp the wrist of your operated arm and lift your injured arm forward above your head.

3. Repeat 10 times (minimum).

NB. 0 degrees represents your arm hanging by your side;
180 degrees represents an arm positioned next to your ear.

Passive arm elevation exercise

3. Passive Shoulder Rotation

  1. With your shoulder blades together and your elbow bent to 90 degrees.
  2. Slide your forearm away from your body and hold for 20 seconds.This can be done easily by holing on to the side of a door to stabilise your arm and rotating your body to stretch your arm away from your belly.
  3. Repeat 10 times (minimum).

NB. 0 degrees represents your arm pointing straight ahead of you; 90 degrees represents an arm pointed in line with your ear when you are looking straight ahead).

Passive shoulder rotation exercise

More Information

Check out Dr McLean’s informative articles on surgery and post-operative shoulder surgery.

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