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  /  Shoulder   /  Shoulder Acromioplasty: Procedure, Recovery and Benefits

Shoulder Acromioplasty: Procedure, Recovery and Benefits

Shoulder acromioplasty, also known as acromioplasty or subacromial decompression, is a surgical procedure commonly performed to address shoulder impingement syndrome and related conditions. This procedure aims to relieve pain, restore function, and improve the range of motion in the shoulder joint.

In this blog, we will delve into the details of shoulder acromioplasty, including its procedure, recovery process, and potential benefits for individuals experiencing shoulder pain and dysfunction.

What is Shoulder Acromioplasty?

Shoulder acromioplasty is a surgical procedure designed to alleviate symptoms associated with shoulder impingement syndrome. This condition occurs when the rotator cuff tendons or bursa become compressed or irritated as they pass through the subacromial space, resulting in pain, inflammation, and limited mobility in the shoulder joint. Acromioplasty involves removing a small portion of the acromion, a bony projection of the scapula (shoulder blade), to create more space and relieve pressure on the underlying structures.


  1. Preoperative Evaluation: Before undergoing acromioplasty, patients typically undergo a thorough evaluation, including a physical examination, imaging studies (such as X-rays or MRI), and a review of medical history to confirm the diagnosis and determine the appropriate surgical approach.
  2. Anesthesia: Acromioplasty is typically performed under general anesthesia, although regional anesthesia (such as a nerve block) may also be used to numb the shoulder and surrounding area.
  3. Surgical Approach: The surgeon makes small incisions around the shoulder to access the affected area. Using specialized instruments, the surgeon trims or removes a portion of the acromion to create more space in the subacromial region.
  4. Tendon Evaluation: During the procedure, the surgeon may also assess the integrity of the rotator cuff tendons and address any tears or abnormalities that contribute to impingement symptoms.
  5. Closure: Once the necessary adjustments have been made, the incisions are closed with sutures or surgical staples, and a sterile dressing is applied to the surgical site.

Benefits of Shoulder Acromioplasty:

  1. Pain Relief: By creating more space in the subacromial region, acromioplasty helps alleviate pressure on the rotator cuff tendons and bursa, reducing pain and discomfort associated with impingement syndrome.
  2. Improved Range of Motion: Shoulder acromioplasty can enhance shoulder mobility and flexibility, allowing individuals to perform daily activities and overhead movements with greater ease and comfort.
  3. Enhanced Function: By addressing the underlying structural abnormalities contributing to impingement symptoms, acromioplasty helps restore optimal shoulder function, strength, and stability, enabling patients to resume their usual activities and sports participation.
  4. Prevention of Further Damage: In cases where impingement syndrome is left untreated, it can lead to progressive damage to the rotator cuff tendons and surrounding structures. Acromioplasty helps prevent further degeneration and may reduce the risk of developing more severe shoulder conditions over time.

Recovery Process:

  1. Immediate Postoperative Period: After surgery, patients are monitored in a recovery area until they are fully awake and alert. Pain medication may be prescribed to manage postoperative discomfort, and instructions on shoulder immobilization and activity restrictions are provided.
  2. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process following acromioplasty. A structured rehabilitation program is designed to improve shoulder strength, flexibility, and function gradually. Therapeutic exercises, manual therapy techniques, and modalities (such as heat or ice therapy) are utilized to promote healing and restore mobility in the shoulder joint.
  3. Gradual Return to Activities: Patients are typically advised to avoid strenuous activities or heavy lifting for several weeks following acromioplasty to allow the shoulder to heal properly. As symptoms improve and strength and range of motion are restored, a gradual return to normal activities and sports may be initiated under the guidance of a physical therapist or surgeon.
  4. Long-Term Follow-Up: Regular follow-up appointments with the surgeon are scheduled to monitor the progress of recovery, assess shoulder function, and address any concerns or complications that may arise.

Physical Therapy Rehabilitation After Shoulder Acromioplasty:

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation process following shoulder acromioplasty. A comprehensive rehabilitation program is designed to optimize healing, restore shoulder function, and prevent complications. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the physical therapy rehabilitation process after shoulder acromioplasty:

      1. Early Postoperative Phase (Weeks 0-6):

    • Pain Management: Physical therapists use modalities such as ice packs and gentle manual techniques to manage postoperative pain and inflammation.
    • Passive Range of Motion (ROM) Exercises: Gentle pendulum exercises and passive ROM exercises are initiated to maintain shoulder mobility while protecting the surgical site.
    • Scapular Stabilization: Emphasis is placed on scapular stabilization exercises to improve the dynamic stability of the shoulder joint and optimize biomechanics.
    • Gradual Mobilization: Patients begin with passive and assisted shoulder mobilization exercises to gradually increase ROM without placing excessive stress on the healing tissues.

     2. Intermediate Rehabilitation Phase (Weeks 6-12):

    • Active ROM Exercises: As pain and inflammation decrease, patients progress to active ROM exercises, including forward flexion, abduction, internal and external rotation, and horizontal adduction.
    • Strength Training: Resistance exercises targeting the rotator cuff muscles, deltoids, and scapular stabilizers are introduced to improve muscle strength and endurance.
    • Dynamic Stability Training: Functional exercises focusing on proprioception, neuromuscular control, and shoulder stability are incorporated to enhance joint stability and prevent re-injury.
    • Stretching: Gentle stretching exercises are performed to improve flexibility in tight muscles and soft tissues surrounding the shoulder joint.

      3. Advanced Rehabilitation Phase (Weeks 12 and Beyond):

    • Progressive Strengthening: Resistance exercises are progressed in intensity, resistance, and complexity to continue building muscle strength and endurance.
    • Functional Training: Functional activities and sports-specific drills are incorporated to simulate real-life movements and improve functional capacity.
    • Return-to-Sport Protocols: Gradual return-to-sport protocols are implemented, focusing on sport-specific skills, agility, and proprioceptive training to prepare patients for a safe return to athletic activities.
    • Education and Prevention: Patients receive education on proper shoulder mechanics, injury prevention strategies, and home exercise programs to maintain gains achieved during rehabilitation and minimize the risk of future injuries.

     4. Long-Term Maintenance Phase:

    • Home Exercise Program: Patients are provided with a customized home exercise program to continue shoulder strengthening, flexibility, and stability exercises independently.
    • Regular Follow-Up: Periodic follow-up appointments with the physical therapist or surgeon are scheduled to monitor progress, address any residual deficits, and modify the rehabilitation program as needed.
    • Lifestyle Modifications: Encouraging patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest, to support long-term shoulder health and function.

In summary, physical therapy rehabilitation after shoulder acromioplasty is a gradual and progressive process aimed at restoring shoulder function, strength, and stability while minimizing the risk of complications and re-injury. By following a structured rehabilitation program under the guidance of a skilled physical therapist, patients can achieve optimal outcomes and return to their desired level of activity with confidence.

Some Home Exercises:

A series of late-stage home exercises designed to continue strengthening, improving mobility, and promoting stability after shoulder acromioplasty:

     1. Shoulder External Rotation with Resistance Band:

    • Secure one end of a resistance band to a stationary object at waist height.
    • Hold the other end of the band with the hand of the operated arm, elbow bent at 90 degrees, and forearm parallel to the floor.
    • Keeping the elbow close to your side, externally rotate the shoulder by pulling the band away from your body.
    • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 repetitions. Perform 2-3 sets.

     2. Scapular Retraction:

    • Sit or stand with your back straight and shoulders relaxed.
    • Squeeze your shoulder blades together by retracting them downwards and towards the spine.
    • Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds, then relax.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions. Gradually increase the hold time as you progress.

     3. Shoulder Flexion with Dumbbells:

    • Stand or sit with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inwards and arms by your sides.
    • Slowly raise both arms in front of you until they are parallel to the floor, maintaining a slight bend in the elbows.
    • Pause briefly at the top, then lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions. Gradually increase the weight of the dumbbells as tolerated.

     4. Prone Shoulder Extension:

    • Lie face down on a flat surface with your arms by your sides and palms facing up.
    • Engage your shoulder blades by gently lifting your arms off the ground, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
    • Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds, then lower your arms back down.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions.

     5. Wall Angels:

    • Stand with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart.
    • Bring your arms up to shoulder height, bending your elbows to 90 degrees, and press them against the wall.
    • Slowly slide your arms up the wall as high as you can without pain, then slide them back down to the starting position.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions, focusing on maintaining good posture and shoulder blade control.

     6. Shoulder Abduction with Resistance Band:

    • Secure one end of a resistance band to a door handle or other sturdy anchor at waist height.
    • Hold the other end of the band with the hand of the operated arm, palm facing down.
    • Keep your elbow straight and slowly raise your arm out to the side until it’s parallel to the floor.
    • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 repetitions. Perform 2-3 sets.

     7. Shoulder Internal Rotation Stretch:

    • Stand with your operated arm bent at 90 degrees and forearm resting against a door frame or wall.
    • Gently rotate your body away from the wall to stretch the front of the shoulder.
    • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, then relax. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.

     8. Thoracic Extension Stretch:

    • Sit on the floor with a foam roller placed horizontally behind your mid-back.
    • Support your head with your hands and slowly lean back over the foam roller, arching your upper back.
    • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, focusing on opening up the chest and shoulders.
    • Repeat 2-3 times.

Perform these exercises 3-4 times per week, gradually increasing the repetitions, sets, and resistance as tolerated. Listen to your body and avoid any movements that cause pain or discomfort. If you experience persistent or increasing pain during exercises, consult your physical therapist or surgeon for guidance. Consistency and gradual progression are key to achieving continued improvement in shoulder function and strength after acromioplasty.


In conclusion, shoulder acromioplasty is a surgical procedure commonly performed to address shoulder impingement syndrome and related conditions. By creating more space in the subacromial region and addressing underlying structural abnormalities, acromioplasty can provide significant relief from pain, improve shoulder function, and enhance overall quality of life for individuals experiencing shoulder dysfunction. If you are considering acromioplasty or experiencing shoulder pain and limited mobility, consult with a qualified orthopedic surgeon or shoulder specialist to explore your treatment options and determine the most appropriate course of action for your specific needs.


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