Exercises for AC Joint Pain

AC joint pain is a common shoulder injury that can be managed with following some general exercise guidelines. The exercises below are some stretching and strengthening exercises that I frequently recommend to my patients with AC joint pain.

Of course, as part of the overall treatment program, utilize ice therapy to help minimize localized pain and swelling. In addition, avoid any activities that aggravate your symptoms.



It is important that both stretching and strengthening exercises be performed pain free. Shoulder stretching may result in some discomfort, but pain should be avoided.

If you do not have a limitation in your shoulder range of motion, only follow the strengthening exercises. If you do have ROM restrictions, follow the stretching exercises to increase your mobility first before moving on to the strengthening exercises.

For maximum benefit, the exercises should be performed twice a day, followed by applying ice to your shoulder for 10 minutes.



AC Joint Pain Stretching Exercises


Shoulder Flexion

Supine Shoulder Flexion

Lying flat on your back, grab a stick/golf club/bat with both hands, shoulder width apart. Keeping elbows straight, lift both arms up and overhead, using the uninjured shoulder to control the movement. Stretch the shoulder in this overhead position to the point of discomfort but not pain. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, repeat 3 times.



Posterior Capsule Stretch

Posterior Shoulder Stretch

Keeping elbow straight and in a thumb up position, move injured shoulder across body toward the opposite shoulder. Use the opposite arm to provide an extra stretch by moving the arm closer to the opposite shoulder. To minimize pain, keep arm slightly below shoulder level. A stretch should be felt in the back of the shoulder. Hold 10 to 15 seconds, repeat 3 times.



Shoulder Abduction Stretch

Wall Shoulder Abduction Stretch

While facing a wall, walk the injured arm up overhead until a stretch but no pain is felt in the shoulder. While keeping the arm in this overhead position, rotate your body away from the wall. Hold for another 10 seconds. Repeat this process 3 times.






AC Joint Pain Strengthening Exercises


Shoulder ER strengthening

Side lying External Rotation

While lying on your uninjured side, tuck a rolled up towel between your injured arm and elbow. Using a light weight (2 lbs – 3 lbs) and keeping your elbow flexed at a 90 degree angle, slowly rotate your arm from next to your body up toward the ceiling, then lower back toward your body. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Make sure to perform movement in a slow controlled fashion. Because the rotator cuff muscles are endurance muscles, when the exercise becomes easy, increase the number of repetitions before increasing the weight.



Shoulder Flexion

Standing Shoulder Flexion

Start in a standing position, using a light (2 lbs to 3 lbs) weight. Lift both arms straight up in front beginning with your arms by your side and finishing at shoulder height. Make sure to lead with the thumbs and keep your elbows straight. Avoid shrugging your shoulders by focusing on keeping your shoulder blades in a down and back position. Perform 3 sets of this slow movement, 10 to 15 repetitions. Over time, when the exercise becomes easy, increase the difficulty of the exercise by increasing the number of repetitions before increasing weight.



Shoulder Scaption

Standing Shoulder Scaption

Start in a standing position, using a light (2 lbs to 3 lbs) weight. Begin with your arms at your side. Lift arms up (at a 30 degree angle from straight out to the side) to shoulder height. Make sure to lead with your thumbs and keep your elbows straight. Avoid shrugging your shoulders by focusing on keeping your shoulder blades in a down and back position. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Over time, when the exercise becomes easy, increase the difficulty of the exercise by increasing the number of repetitions before increasing the weight.



Shoulder Rows

Rows

Attach a thera-band resistance band to a door. While facing the door in a standing position, grab the thera-band with both elbows extended. Move both arms backward while allowing the elbows to flex. Finish with squeezing your shoulder blades together. Avoid shrugging your shoulders by focusing on keeping your shoulder blades in a down and back position. Perform 3 sets of this slow movement, 10 to 15 repetitions. Over time, when the exercise becomes easy, increase the difficulty of the exercise by increasing the number of repetitions before increasing the resistance.


Following the above exercise program can help reduce your AC joint pain and assist in returning you to the activities you enjoy.




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