What are the best exercises for rehabilitating an injured shoulder?

I dislocated my shoulder rock climbing. What kind of exercises should I do to reduce the risk of it happening again? Eric Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Sorry, Eric, but dislocating your shoulder causes stretching of the capsule and ligaments that surround the shoulder joint, and there are no exercises that can be performed to tighten up this capsule. The most important thing is to rest and allow the tissue to heal. If the dislocation was bad enough, surgery may be required to fix things that were torn during the dislocation.

If your doctor has cleared you to begin exercising, it’s important to work with a licensed physical therapist or athletic trainer to guide you through the process. Depending which way you dislocated (out the front or back) certain exercises may or may not be right for you.

But no matter which way you dislocated your shoulder, rotator cuff strengthening will be key for you to help prevent future shoulder pain and injury and return to action stronger.

The rotator cuff muscles are the main stabilizers of your shoulder joint—a big responsibility for a small group of muscles. So it’s important to train them once or twice a week with an exercise called external shoulder rotation. You can do this with a resistance band at home, a cable at the gym, or lying on your side with a small dumbbell. Here’s a video demonstration.

— Sue Falsone, Director of Performance Physical Therapy, Athletes’ Performance