9 Shoulder Exercises To Heal And Recover From A Labral Tear Shoulder Injury

Easy-to-follow and effective exercises to help treat unstable shoulder joints.

Reviewed by Julie Erickson, RYT, PMA® CPT Julie Erickson Julie EricksonRYT, PMA® CPT facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist linkedin_icon Experience: 6 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health linkedin_icon Experience: 8 years
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The labrum is a circular piece of cartilagei  A strong and flexible connective tissue between joints and bones that reduces friction during movement. that keeps the shoulders locked in place. A broken, torn, or frayed labrum can lead to an unstable shoulder joint that causes shoulder pain, and, in some cases, shoulder dislocation. According to Dr. Jordan Duncan, Doctor of Chiropractici  An alternative medicine that treats a person’s neuromusculoskeletal system with specific hands-on manipulations. , “there are various reasons a shoulder labral tear occurs. Falling on an outstretched hand is a classic example. Labral tears can also occur in overhead athletes, such as baseball pitchers. These tears are commonly SLAP (Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior) lesionsi  Abnormal change or damage in the tissue caused by trauma or disease that may or may not be serious. .”

What’s the best solution for a shoulder labral tear? Chartered Physiotherapist, Peter Keane, BSc., MSc. says, “Usually if you suffer from a labrum tear a doctor will recommend surgery followed by physical therapy. However, you can engage in some exercises prior to the surgery to aid the overall recovery. In some cases the exercises can even be enough to prevent surgery altogether.

A study was conducted on 442 patients to assess the prevalence of posterior and combined labral tears in people with a history of surgery related to shoulder labral tears. The mean age of patients was 25.9 years. As per the results, 52.9% had isolated anterior labral tears, 16.3% had posterior, and 30.8% had combined anteroposterior labral tears.

In this post, we have listed the 8 best shoulder rehab exercises to heal your shoulder labral tear better. Perform these shoulder mobility exercises after consulting your doctor.

protip_icon Workout Blueprint: Shoulder Labral Tear Exercises
  • Frequency: Daily
  • Benefits: Improve shoulder strength and stability.
  • Equipment Needed: Exercise mat, resistance band, bench.
  • Space Required: Large area
  • Assistance Required: Yes
  • Who Should Avoid: Individuals with severe shoulder pain.

9 Best Shoulder Labral Tear Exercises

1. Internal Rotation

Internal Rotation
Image: YouTube @AskDoctorJo

Steps

  1. Secure a resistance band. Hold one end and sit down on a mat or a chair. Keep your forearm at 90 degrees to the upper arm, with your thumbs out. This is the starting position.
  2. Place a rolled towel between your elbow and body.
  3. Pull the resistance band towards your body thereby creating an internal rotation movement. Keep your elbow against the towel while performing this movement.
  4. Pause for a second and move your hand back to the starting position.
  5. Do this 15 times, twice a day.

2. Wall Walk Stretches

Wall Walk Stretches
Image: YouTube @CBDmsnyder

Steps

  1. Stand facing a wall, about 6 inches from it.
  2. Place your affected hand on the wall. This is the starting position.
  3. Begin to walk your hands up the wall and hold for 20 seconds.
  4. Walk back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat this 3 times, twice a day.

3. Blackburn Exercise

Blackburn Exercise
Image: YouTube @abbiezubiel6361

Steps

  1. Lie on your belly on a mat or a bench.
  2. Keep your arms extended out to your sides, palms facing down.
  3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and lift the arms up without bending the elbows.
  4. Count to 5 and relax.
  5. Do these shoulder blade exercises 15 times, twice a day.
protip_icon Quick Tip
Your exercise routine after a shoulder labrum tear should be specific to your needs. Hence, check with your doctor before starting any exercise to be sure it is safe for you.

4. Rotator Cuff Strengthening

Rotator Cuff Strengthening
Image: YouTube @AskDoctorJo

Steps

  1. Lie down on your belly on the bed or sofa.
  2. You may hold a 1- or 2-pound weight with your affected hand. Do not use weights if you are not comfortable yet.
  3. Let your hand dangle down. This is the starting position.
  4. Move your hands to the back, as far as you can go. But do not lift them too high up.
  5. Hold for a second and return to the starting position.
  6. Raise your hands laterally upwards.
  7. Pause for a moment and bring your hands back to the starting position.
  8. Do this set of rotator cuff exercises 15 times, twice a day.

5. Scapular Stability Exercise

Scapular Stability Exercise
Image: YouTube @OrthoEvalPal

Steps

  1. Stand with legs hip-width apart.
  2. Push your shoulders back to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  3. Push your shoulder blades down.
  4. Hold for a few seconds.
  5. Relax.
  6. Do these shoulder stability exercises 15 times, twice a day.

6. Shoulder ‘I’s And ‘Y’s

Shoulder ‘I’s And ‘Y’s
Image: YouTube

Steps

  1. Lie down on your belly on a mat.
  2. Extend your hands in front of you and keep your head down.
  3. Lift your hands off the floor.
  4. Bring them down.
  5. Do the shoulder ‘I’s 10 times.
  6. Move your hands apart so that they resemble a ‘Y’.
  7. Lift your hands off the floor.
  8. Bring them down.
  9. Do the shoulder ‘Y’s 10 times.
  10. Do this set twice, two times a day.

7. Shoulder Horizontal Abduction

Shoulder Horizontal Abduction
Image: YouTube @AgeFitwithTess

Steps

  1. Hold a resistance band and sit in a chair.
  2. Keep your hands extended in front of you, hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Pull your hands apart until they are fully stretched to the side.
  4. Bring your arms back to the starting position.
  5. Do this 10 times, twice a day.

8. Shoulder Scaption

Shoulder Scaption
Image: YouTube @AskDoctorJo

Steps

  1. Secure one end of a resistance band under your feet. Hold the other end with your hand. Do not bend your elbow. Keep your hand to your side. This is the starting position.
  2. Point your hand out at 45 degrees.
  3. Raise your hand, without bending your elbow, until your hand is at your shoulder level.
  4. Bring your hand back to the starting position.
  5. Do this 10 times, twice a day.

9. Seated Shoulder Press Exercise

Woman performing seated shoulder press at gym
Image: Shutterstock

Steps

  1. Sit on a stable surface, like a weight bench or a stable chair, with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level, with your palms facing forward and your elbows bent at 90°. Maintain a straight back, chest up, and your core engaged.
  3. Keep your head in a neutral position, looking forward.
  4. Exhale and push the dumbbells upward and fully extend your arms overhead.
  5. Avoid locking your elbows at the top.
  6. Inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  7. Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions every day.
protip_icon Did You Know?
Exercises like biceps curls, floor push-ups, 90/90 shoulder flexioni  Exercise in which the arms are moved anywhere from a resting position to stretch the muscles in the shoulder. , and overhead shoulder press may cause shoulder labrum tears.

These are the 9 shoulder strengthening exercises you can do at home that help with a labral tear. Exercise therapy helps in faster recovery.

Simon, a YouTuber, shares in one of his vlogs his experience of undergoing shoulder surgery: “I thought maybe I’ve just flared up the joint and it will settle down on its own, and if it doesn’t, I will get surgery. With a bit of gentle rotator cuff rehab and time alone, the symptoms went away (i).” However, he continues, “About 2 years later, in 2020, my shoulders started hurting again.” After multiple wrong diagnoses and rehab therapies, he was diagnosed with a labral tear and underwent surgery.

However, there are certain shoulder range of motion exercises you must avoid. Find out what they are in the following section.

Torn Labrum Exercises To Avoid

According to Dr. Jordan Duncan, Doctor of Chiropractic, it is better to avoid exercises that promote muscle imbalance and dominance of the large muscles on the front of the body. Examples of not recommended shoulder injury exercises include bench press. Avoid doing any exercise that aggravates the injury. If you are an athlete, focus on recovery and rest. If you have had a fall, avoid picking heavy objects or going to the gym until your shoulder has fully recovered.

Ways To Avoid Shoulder Labral Problems

The best way to avoid shoulder labral problems is to “maintain excellent scapular control and rotator cuff strength, which, in turn improves shoulder stability”, says Dr. Jordan Duncan, Doctor of Chiropractic. Warm up for 10 minutes before exercising, cool down after, and do posture correction and shoulder and back strengthening exercises to prevent shoulder labral tears.

Infographic: Top 5 Shoulder Labral Tear Exercises

Dealing with a shoulder labral tear can be painful and tiring. Usually, doctors recommend surgery followed by shoulder physical therapy exercises as its treatment. However, in rare cases, it is possible to prevent the surgery altogether by following simple exercises. Doing them before the surgery can also aid in overall recovery. Check out the infographic below for the best exercises for shoulder labral tear.

top 5 shoulder labral tear exercises (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Shoulder labral tear exercises may sometimes prevent the need for surgery. If not, they can at least set the ground for a quick recovery post-surgery. So, talk to your doctor to find out if surgery is needed. Simultaneously, work with a physiotherapisti  A healthcare professional who helps an individual achieve their maximum range of movement or physical ability. to improve the condition of your shoulder. The best thing about these exercises is that you don’t need to hit the gym to do them. The most you will need is a resistance band or a chair. Avoid exercises like bench press if you have a labral tear. You can even reduce the risk of these tears by working on your posture and doing back and shoulder impingement exercises.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a labrum tear in the shoulder heal itself?

If the tear is minor, it may heal on its own. However, it is always better to consult a doctor.

What happens if a labral tear goes untreated?

If a labral tear goes untreated, it may cause chronic shoulder pain, weakness, and instability.

How long does it take to recover from a labral tear?

The labrum takes 4-6 weeks to reattach to the bone. However, the recovery time may vary depending on the area and the severity of the injury.

Key Takeaways

  • In some cases, shoulder labral tear exercises can facilitate healing and be enough to prevent the need for surgery.
  • Exercises like internal rotation, blackburn, lateral abduction, etc., can help to improve shoulder strength, range of motion, and shoulder stability.
  • Avoid exercises that promote muscle imbalance and dominance of the large muscles on the front of the body.

Learn how to exercise and workout safely while dealing with a shoulder labral tear. Watch this video now to get tips on the right exercises to strengthen and protect your shoulder.

Personal Experience: Source

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Julie Erickson
Julie EricksonRYT, PMA® CPT
Julie is a third generation authentic classical Pilates instructor with over 19 years of experience. She is trained in Romana Pilates, certified by the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA-CPT), and internationally certified by Stott Pilates and Balanced Body Pilates.

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