Rotator Cuff Injury and Shoulder Pain Exercises

Rotator Cuff Injury and Shoulder Pain Exercises

Are you experiencing pain in your arm or shoulder? Is your range of motion limited and you notice a sharp pain that shoots down your arm when you reach or stretch? You may have a rotator cuff injury.

After you injure your shoulder and seek medical assistance, the next step is often an exercise conditioning program. With proper daily stretches, you should have no difficulty returning to your daily routine or get back in the game with a more active lifestyle.

If you have pain in your shoulder or your doctor has informed you that you have a rotator cuff or other shoulder injury, it may be time to try some exercises designed specifically to help you get back in shape and move pain-free.

Do I Have a Torn Rotator Cuff?

If you have a torn rotator cuff, you may feel pain that shoots from your shoulder down your arm. You may also notice pain and weakness in your shoulder when trying to complete overhead activities, such as reaching for something on an upper shelf. Another symptom is a deep ache in the shoulder, particularly when trying to sleep on the affected side.

Can A Rotator Cuff Injury Heal Without Surgery?  

The first step in determining what kind of shoulder injury you have is to get a proper medical diagnosis, which will lead you toward the most effective rehab program for your situation. Your rehabilitation might vary depending on the severity of the injury and which muscles are affected.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear, take immediate action with your rehab. This will give you the best possible result. The longer the healing of this tendon takes, the more it begins to retract, inhibiting the success of treatments.  

However, the good news is that small and medium tears typically respond well to conservative rehab and you won’t generally need surgery. A well-structured conditioning program can help you return to sports and your regular everyday activities. 

How Do You Strengthen Your Rotator Cuff?

You can strengthen your rotator cuff using a general conditioning program that offers an array of exercises. Remember that you should have your doctor’s supervision before starting any program related to your injury. Talk to your doctor or chiropractor about which exercises will be best for your particular situation. 

The exercises below will help with strength and flexibility in improving your shoulder and helping you reach your rehabilitation goals. 

Strength: You should work towards strengthening your shoulder muscles to help support your shoulder and keep your shoulder joint stable. Ensuring you have strong muscles reduces the pain you feel and prevents further injury.

Flexibility: Strengthening is only half of the process of healing. Stretching the muscles is just as important, as it restores range of motion and will prevent injury. Following your strengthening exercises, you should gently stretch the area to reduce muscle soreness and keep your muscles flexible.

What Do I Need to Know to Begin the Exercise Program?

Before you begin the shoulder conditioning program, you should know several things to prepare for the exercises.

  • Length of program: This conditioning program should be continued for four to six weeks, unless otherwise specified by your doctor or chiropractor. 
  • Following recovery: You can continue these exercises two to three days a week as a maintenance program for protection against injury and to ensure that your shoulders remain healthy.
  • Warm-up: Prior to beginning, it’s important to warm up your body in preparation of exercising. Use a low-impact activity like walking for five to ten minutes as a warm-up.
  • Pain: You should not feel pain while performing these exercises. Stop immediately if you are experiencing pain and talk to your doctor or chiropractor before continuing.
  • Questions: If you have any questions, such as how to perform an exercise or how long to do it, ask. Your doctor or chiropractor is there to help.

What Are the Best Exercises for Rotator Cuff Recovery?

Below is a list of stretching and strength exercises along with instructions for several of the exercises. Begin with the stretches before moving on to the strengthening exercises. When done, return to the stretches to complete the program.

Stretching Exercises

Choose stretching exercises such as:

  • the pendulum
  • the crossover arm stretch
  • passive internal rotation
  • passive external rotation
  • the sleeper stretch

Crossover Arm Stretch

For the crossover arm stretch, begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. With the hand of your healthy arm, grasp the upper arm of the injured side and gently pull it across your chest as far as you can. You should feel a gentle stretch.

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Relax for 30 seconds. Do four repetitions. Repeat with the other arm. 

See a video of how to do the crossover arm stretch here:

Strength Exercises

Strength exercises include: 

  • the standing row
  • external rotation with arm abducted 90°
  • internal rotation
  • external rotation
  • elbow flexion
  • elbow extension
  • trapezius strengthening
  • scapula setting
  • scapular retraction/protraction
  • bent-over horizontal abduction

Standing Row

The standing row is done using resistance bands. Make a three-foot long loop and tie the ends together. Attach the loop to a doorknob or other sturdy object about waist high. Hold the band in your hand with your elbow bent at your side. Keep your arm close to your side and slowly pull your elbow straight back. Slowly return to the start position. 

Repeat this exercise eight times for three sets on each arm. You should feel this exercise working the back of your shoulder and into your upper back.

See how to do the standing row here: 

External Rotation With Arm Abducted 90°

To complete this exercise, you will need resistance bands. Again, make a three foot loop and tie the ends together, attaching the band to a door knob or other stable object. Stand holding the band with your elbow bent 90-degrees and raised to shoulder height. Keep your shoulder and elbow level while slowly raising your hand until it is level with your head. Slowly return to the start position. 

Repeat this exercise eight times for three sets on each arm. You should feel this exercise working the back of your shoulder and into your upper back.

See how to complete this exercise here: 

How Can a Chiropractor Help with a Shoulder Injury?

While exercises are helpful in treating a shoulder injury, a chiropractor can be a helpful resource as well. Adjustments of the spine, neck, and extremities can help to realign the body, providing real relief from pain and from limited range of motion. 

Chiropractic adjustments gently decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, and reduce nerve irritability, allowing your body to relax and heal. Regular visits to the chiropractor can help with joint mobility, which is a major factor in rotator cuff tear rehab.

Your chiropractor can help you both in the office with adjustments and out of it by explaining additional stretches and exercises that will help accelerate your progress. You’ll see an increase in healing and improvement in overall quality of life. 

If you have shoulder pain and limited range of motion or already have a diagnosis of a rotator cuff tear, chiropractic care can help. Schedule your appointment online or call 256-721-9696 today.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.