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Pilates and Shoulder Surgery

Pilates and Shoulder Surgery

By: Stephanie Ruopp

Are you recovering from shoulder surgery? Or maybe you’re planning to go under the knife soon.

Whatever the case, it’s important to take care of shoulder pain. Not only can it affect your sleep and everyday activities, but if left untreated, it could move to your back or neck. 

So if you’ve opted for surgery, you should know about the benefits of mixing Pilates and shoulder surgery. It works to balance muscles around the shoulder while simultaneously working it into different positions for dynamic stability after surgery.

It’s one of the most effective ways to restore the maximum range of movement.

Causes for Shoulder Surgery

Typical causes of shoulder pain and subsequent surgery are tendonitis and impingement.

Simply put, tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation the thick fibrous cords that attach your muscle to bone – i.e. a tendon. This condition leaves the area just outside your shoulder joint painful and tender.

An impingement involves your rotator cuff and acromiun. The rotator cuff is  a group of muscles and tendons that attach your upper arm bone to your shoulder. These are the muscles you use when you lift and rotate your arm. The rotator cuff sits under the acromion – or top of the shoulder. When you lift your arm, the space between the two narrows, increasing pressure that irritates the rotator cuff.

Shoulder pain is certainly common among athletes. Particularly those in sports involving the shoulder such as tennis, swimming, and lifting weights. Yet, the shoulder joint is so complex that impingement can occur spontaneously to anyone and with no apparent cause.

Of course, impingement and tendonitis are not the only reasons cause of shoulder pain. On some occasions, the problem is a labral tear. This is a bit more complex.

What Is a Labral Tear?

The band of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder joint is known as the labrum. It’s a ring of soft tissue that helps keep the ball of the joint in place. The labrum is smooth and strong unless it is subject to injury – in which case it can get torn.

A labral tear in the shoulder is often the result of falling and landing on an outstretched hand. But it can also happen with aging. It’s also common in baseball pitchers from forcefully throwing a ball. Doing so causes the bicep tendon to pull hard against the front of the shoulder joint and labrum – leading to a tear.

The Benefits of Pilates and Shoulder Surgery

The system of Pilates is highly effective in improving strength in the muscles that support a joint. While a patient works through specific rehabilitative shoulder exercises, Pilates will also improve and maintain core stability in the pelvis, lower back, thoracic spine, and shoulder girdle.

In addition, Pilates works to improve normal movement patterns and correct poor muscle recruitment. Muscle recruitment is the order in which muscles are activated to perform a specific movement. During illness or injury, this order can be lost and muscles switch on in the wrong order.

As for treating a labral tear that requires surgery, joint replacement, or other intervention, custom exercises and trained instruction from skilled professionals can help patients achieve full function of the affected joint.


The Pilates principles of correct alignment, body awareness, lateral breathing and neutral spine can be applied to any prescribed exercises, to improve the quality of the exercise themselves.

What to Expect from Pilates Shoulder Rehab

Working with highly trained professionals will ensure that you have a safe program that’s targeted at your specific condition, while striving to maintain rehabilitation goals and overall health. A wide array of equipment and props will be utilized to guide you through Pilates exercise aimed at improving the affected area. The primary objective is helping you regain stability of the shoulder joint. From there, exercises are performed to strengthen the larger muscles around the joint.

It is of utmost importance that the shoulder joint finds its seat in the center of the joint socket. With labral tears, it’s not uncommon for the joint to incorrectly “seat” in the socket during healing. This can lead to discomfort, abnormal movement, and the possibility of reinjury.

Thus, it’s crucial to work with only skilled Pilates instructors who know how to properly utilize props, free weights, and various machines to help isolate and strengthen the muscles. The improved strength enables the joint head to sit centered in the socket. Only from that point should strength exercises be increased.

Pilates Can Help You Rehab from Should Surgery

In recent posts, we looked at how Pilates effectively helps you rehab after knee surgery and hip surgery. So it only makes sense that Pilates and shoulder surgery would go hand in hand as well.

So if you’re planning or are currently recovering from shoulder surgery, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll speak with you in-depth about your specific situation and what will be the optimal way for you to restore strength and movement in your previously troublesome shoulder.

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