Good shoulders go bad. It’s a fact of life. Whether you’re young or old, a couch potato or an elite athlete, there’s a shoulder injury made just for you. It might catch you by surprise or you might see it coming from a mile off, but either way, it won’t be fun and it won’t be convenient. A shoulder injury can take you out of the game for months, putting you on a first-name basis with your surgeon and your new best friend, your physical therapist. You’ll become intimately familiar with your sling, your exercise bands, your shoulder pulley—and possibly the limits of your patience!
Four Injuries Helped by a Shoulder Pulley During Rehab
A shoulder pulley is a simple device that lets you perform passive range of motion exercises during recovery. These exercises help prevent stiffness and the build-up of scar tissue during a time when your shoulder should be resting and healing. But what got you into this position in the first place?
- You took a hard fall on your first practice run at the X Games. Do you ride a board? A bike? Do you like living on the edge? Have you been in a car accident and didn’t have the defensive driving skills you needed? You might not be asking for broken bones, but you know the risk. A fractured clavicle or humerus hurts. It might even require surgery. Even if not, though, recovery is going to take time. At the very least you’ll be in a sling for quite a while. And once your doctor approves, you’ll need those range of motion exercises if you ever want to grind another rail.
- It took ten years to do it, but you managed to put that box on that shelf for the 150,000th time. Hello, rotator cuff injury. Repetitive overhead activity is just one way of getting there, and there are a number of ways a rotator cuff can go wrong. There’s bursitis, there’s tendonitis, there are A rotator cuff injury can manifest as a dull, deep ache, a weak arm, limited range of motion, and even disturbed sleep. Prevention is better than treatment, but once you’re there you’re there. If you’re lucky, rest will lead to recovery, but in some cases, you’ll need surgery—along with that period of immobilization and range of motion exercises with a shoulder pulley.
- After a lifetime of being ridden hard and put away wet, your shoulder is done. If the damage is serious enough—whether it’s from osteoarthritis, major fractures, or severe rotator cuff injury—surgical shoulder replacement may be the only option left. Think of it like a knee replacement, only higher. Once again, recovery will take some time, and you’ll need those range of motion exercises.
- Nada. Zilch. You didn’t do a darn thing to deserve this. Sometimes your shoulder just decides to be a jerk. The connective tissue thickens and tightens, restricting the movement of the joint. This condition is known as adhesive capsulitis (aka frozen shoulder). It happens gradually and can eventually resolve on its own, but unfortunately, this process can take several years. Some people are at greater risk, including those over 40 (women especially), diabetes and tuberculosis patients, people with thyroid issues, and—drum roll—people whose shoulders have been immobilized for whatever reason. So don’t slack off on that prescribed range of motion exercises!
Using a Shoulder Pulley for Range of Motion
Rest and immobilization are key components of treatment for most shoulder injuries. But that immobility can be a problem when it leads to stiffness and range of motion troubles. That’s why it’s so important that, whatever your injury, you work with a physical therapist who can take you through passive exercises to ease your recovery and prevent additional complications.
These passive exercises are easy in your PT’s office. All you have to do is sit there and let them move your arm. But what do you do at home? That’s where the shoulder pulley comes in. With a shoulder pulley, you can replicate your physical therapist’s passive range of motion exercises on your own, without assistance.
One note of caution, though: Don’t just pick up a shoulder pulley and make up your own rehab program. It’s important that you perform the right exercises at the right time. And for that, you’ll need to follow the recommendations of a qualified doctor or physical therapist, who will know exactly how your specific injuries are best treated.