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How To Reduce Shoulder Pain – 12 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises

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ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition
How To Reduce Shoulder Pain – 12 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises Hyderabd040-395603080 May 3, 2019

Do you have constant, nagging shoulder pain? Is that pain preventing you from playing your favorite sport or carrying out day-to-day chores? Or are you recovering from a recent shoulder injury? To get relief from shoulder pain, you need to do gentle shoulder exercises targeting the rotator cuff muscles – the four muscles that help in various movements of your arm. The exercises will help improve range of motion, reduce pain, and increase strength. Scroll down to know about various rotator cuff exercises.

Note: Do not do these exercises without your doctor’s permission.

In This Post, You Will Know…

What Are The Rotator Cuff Muscles?

What Are The Rotator Cuff Muscles - Rotator Cuff Exercises Pinit

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The rotator cuff muscles are a group of four shoulder muscles that help in the movement of your arms and shoulders. Also referred to as SITS, the four muscles of the rotator cuff are:

  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor
  • Subscapularis

These muscles help stabilize your shoulders when your hands move to do various tasks. Your hand movement can range from abduction to external and internal rotation and repeated pulling (as during playing tennis).

Without enough strength, balance, and stability, it would be impossible to lift your arms and do various movements freely. If you have a shoulder injury, you know that even lifting your hand becomes extremely painful. So, what causes rotator cuff muscle pain? Find out in the next section.

What Causes Injury To The Rotator Cuff Muscles?

Injury and pain to the rotator cuff muscles are caused due to overuse of your hands and shoulders. Poor posture and conditioning and incorrect techniques may also lead to irritation, inflammation, calcification, degenerative thinning, and tendon tear. A rotator cuff muscle injury can also occur due to aging. Here is a list of rotator cuff injuries:

  • Rotator Cuff Tears
  • Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy
  • Rotator Cuff Tendinitis
  • Impingement Syndrome

When any of these four injuries occur, you may experience pain and other symptoms. What are the other symptoms? Scroll down to find out.

Symptoms Of Rotator Cuff Injury

  • Trouble lifting your hands
  • Trouble reaching behind your back
  • Weakness of the shoulders
  • Difficulty sleeping on the side of the affected shoulder
  • Crackling sensation while doing certain movements
  • Increased shoulder pain at night

If you have any of these symptoms, you must check with your doctor immediately. Your doctor will ask about your daily activity routine, medical history, and age, do a physical examination, and may ask you to get an X-ray and/or MRI done.

[ Read: 12 Home Remedies To Get Relief From Muscle Soreness ]

If a rotator cuff injury is confirmed, you will be on NSAIDs or may require to opt for surgery. Post surgery, the recovery will take place in four different stages:

  • First, immobilize your shoulder for 4-6 weeks.
  • Second, you will do passive movement exercises for 4-6 weeks, where the physical therapist will stabilize your arm at a particular position and gently exercise the rotator cuff muscles without any effort from you. This will help improve the strength, flexibility, and stability of your shoulder joint.
  • Third, you will perform active exercises for 3-6 weeks to further improve range of motion, strength, and flexibility.
  • Fourth, you will perform strength training exercises for 8-12 weeks using resistance bands and light weights.

In this post, I will talk about the exercises recommended in the third and fourth stages of recovery. You will learn about the various active exercises you may perform under the supervision of your physical therapist. Talk to your doctor and therapist before starting these exercises. At any time, if you experience increased pain, stop immediately and seek medical attention.

With these points in mind, let’s see which exercises are best for increasing strength, stability, and range of motion after rotator cuff injury.

12 Best Exercises To Strengthen The Rotator Cuff Muscles After Injury

1. Side-lying External Rotation

Target – External rotators

How To Do

  1. Hold a 1-pound dumbbell with the hand of the affected shoulder. Flex your elbow so that your upper arm is perpendicular to the forearm. Keep your hand pronated. Place a towel below your elbow for support.
  2. Lie down on a mat, support your head on a foam roller or rolled towel. Stretch your other arm out in front of you.
  3. Slightly bend your knees. This is the starting position.
  4. Slowly, pull your hand up, keeping the elbow bent.
  5. Bring it back to the starting position.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 8 reps in the initial stage. Increase the reps and sets as you progress.

2. High-To-Low Rows

Target – Rhomboids, traps, and lats.

How To Do

  1. Hold the rope attached to the cable stack with both your hands.
  2. Step back and get into a staggered stance. Keep your core tight, and weight on the front foot.
  3. Pull the ropes back with your elbows going down and back. Squeeze your shoulder blades.
  4. Release the hold slowly and extend your arms fully.
  5. Repeat.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 8 reps

[ Read: 12 Amazing Benefits Of Rowing Machine Exercises ]

3. Reverse Fly

Target – Posterior deltoids, rhomboids, and traps.

How To Do

  1. Hold a 1-pound dumbbell with the hand of the affected shoulder. Flex your elbow so that your upper arm is perpendicular to the forearm. Keep your hand pronated. Place a towel below your elbow for support.
  2. Lie down on a mat, support your head on a foam roller or rolled towel. Stretch your other arm out in front of you.
  3. Slightly bend your knees. This is the starting position.
  4. Slowly, pull your hand up, keeping the elbow bent.
  5. Bring it back to the starting position.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 6 reps

4. Lawn Mower Pull

Target – Anterior deltoids, pectorals, lats, biceps, and hamstrings.

How To Do

  1. Hold one edge of a broad resistance band. Secure it by stepping on the other end of the band. Twist the band in your hand for the required amount of resistance.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and the free hand placed on your waist. This is your starting position.
  3. Straighten your knees and stand. As you do so, pull the resistance band with your elbow pointing back, and your shoulder blades squeezed.
  4. Drop back to the starting position.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 8 reps

5. Doorway Stretch

Target – Subscapularis and pectoralis.

How To Do

  1. Stand near a doorway. Keep one foot in front of the other, your arms on the door, your elbows at shoulder level, and your neck in neutral position.
  2. Move forward slowly and feel the stretch in the front of your shoulder.
  3. Hold it for 30 seconds. Release.
  4. Do 2-3 shoulder rolls and repeat.

Sets And Reps

2 sets of 6 reps

6. Pendulum

Target – Shoulder joints

How To Do

  1. Rest your good arm on a table, lean over, keep one foot in front of the other, and the affected hand hanging.
  2. Start swinging your body so that your arm starts to swing as well. Direct the swing to clockwise and anticlockwise directions.

Sets And Reps

5 sets of 10 clockwise and 10 anticlockwise movements.

7. Crossover Arm Stretch-Low Rows

Target – Posterior deltoids, lats, and triceps.

How To Do

  1. Place the hand of the affected arm on the opposite shoulder. You may use your good arm as support to do so.
  2. Grab the elbow of the affected arm with your good arm and raise it to the shoulder level.
  3. Gently and slowly, pull your elbow toward the opposite shoulder. You will feel a stretch along the side and back of your shoulder.
  4. Hold it for 20 seconds and repeat.

Sets And Reps

2 sets of 10 reps

[ Read: 10 Physical Therapy Exercises To Treat Shoulder Pain ]

8. Sleeper Stretch

Target – Posterior shoulder

How To Do

  1. Lie down on the affected side. Keep your arm a little extended out so that it is not directly below your shoulder.
  2. Flex your elbow and keep your forearm in an upright position.
  3. Hold the wrist of your affected arm with the other hand.
  4. Gently push your affected arm down and hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Release.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 5 reps.

9. Shoulder External Rotation

Target – Teres minor, posterior deltoid, and infraspinatus.

How To Do

  1. Stand near a door with the affected arm facing away from it. Secure a resistance band on the handle of the door. Hold the other end of the resistance band with your affected arm.
  2. Flex your elbow so that the forearm is perpendicular to the upper arm. This is the starting position.
  3. Keeping your elbow close to the body, pull the resistance band away from your body.
  4. Get it back to the starting position and repeat.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 8 reps

10. Shoulder Internal Rotation

Target – Subscapularis, teres major, and lateral deltoids.

How To Do

  1. Stand near a door with the affected arm near it. Secure a resistance band on the handle of the door. Hold the other end of the resistance band with the affected arm.
  2. Flex your elbow such that the forearm is perpendicular to the upper arm. This is the starting position.
  3. Keep your elbow close to the body and pull the resistance band toward your body.
  4. Get it back to the starting position and repeat.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 8 reps

11. Resisted Shoulder Extension

Target – Teres major, lats, posterior deltoids, and triceps.

How To Do

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Anchor a resistance band in a doorway.
  2. Hold the other end of the band. This is the starting position.
  3. Pull the band and move your elbow back.
  4. Get back to the starting position.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 8 reps

[ Read: 15 Physical Therapy Exercises For Tennis Elbows ]

12. Shoulder Abduction Using A Resistance Band

Target – Deltoid and supraspinatus.

How To Do

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Secure the resistance band under your shoes and hold the other end of the band with the affected hand. This is the starting position.
  2. Raise your arm out to the side in a slow and controlled motion. Stop when you feel pain.
  3. Return to the starting position in a slow and controlled motion.

Sets And Reps

3 sets of 10 reps

There you go – 12 best rotator cuff exercises to reduce pain and increase the range of motion. Do these exercises, and you will feel better for sure. However, do not rush your recovery. It will take at least 2-3 months if you have had shoulder surgery recently. Take your medicines and consult your doctor before starting any new exercise. Also, inform your doctor or physical therapist if you experience increased pain after doing an exercise.

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