Rotator Cuff Rehabilitation Exercises

Photo Credit: GTindy CC-BY-SA-3.0 2002

A rotator cuff shoulder injury is painful and may require rehabilitation exercise to repair and heal the injury. Symptoms of an injured rotator cuff include pain, joint stiffness and weakness. See a doctor immediately if you suspect you have injured your rotator cuff and follow her advice for treatment of the injury. Exercise can help heal an injured rotator cuff, but do not perform any rehabilitation exercises except under the supervision and with the approval of your doctor. You can strengthen and improve your rotator cuff to rehabilitate an injury and to lessen the risk of future injury by doing stretching and strengthening exercises. 
Stretching exercises increase the range-of-motion and restore flexibility to a stiff shoulder joint. An over-head stretch is easy to do. Stand up straight in front of a sturdy, stable chair with the back of the chair facing you. Bend forward at the waist and bend  your knees slightly. Reach forward with your arms straight and grasp the back of the chair. Look at the floor with your head between your arms and lower your body until you feel your shoulders stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then stand up using a smooth motion. Repeat this exercise 2 times each day and increase to 4 times each day as your flexibility improves.  

Another effective rotator cuff flexibility exercise is a behind-the-back shoulder stretch. Reach behind your back with one arm and grasp the injured arm at the wrist. Pull the injured arm up gently to stretch the shoulder joint and increase flexibility of the rotator cuff. A variation of this exercise is to hold a towel behind your back. Hold the towel at shoulder level with your unaffected arm and grasp the towel behind your back with your injured arm. Gently pull the towel up to stretch your shoulder. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat the exercise twice each day. 
It is important to increase the strength of your shoulder and rotator cuff to help avoid injury or re-injury. Isometric exercises are a good way to build strength without moving the joint. Stand about 6 inches from a wall, facing the wall. Hold your injured arm close to your body and make a fist with your thumb over your fingers. Bend your elbow and press your fist against the wall. Try to keep your body stationary as you press your fist against the wall. Don’t push with all your strength, but push until you feel your muscles begin to contract. Hold the position for about 5 seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times each day. As you grow stronger, push against the wall harder and hold the position longer.
Continue doing rehabilitative exercises as directed by your doctor, even if your shoulder feels better and you are no longer experiencing pain. Shoulder stretching and strengthening exercises are important even if you don’t have an injury to increase your shoulder strength and avoid injury. 
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About Robin R.
I’m an AFPA certified personal trainer & nutrition consultant, NASM certified corrective exercise specialist, NASM certified youth exercise specialist, online fitness coach and freelance writer specializing in health and fitness. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health. I specialize in weight loss, functional strength training, total body toning, aerobic conditioning, plyometric training, nutrition planning, and home-based boot camp style workouts for women. My goal is to make every personal training session fun and effective for my clients. My services include both in-home personal training and online fitness coaching.

One Response to Rotator Cuff Rehabilitation Exercises

  1. Strengthening the rotator calf muscles to avoid injuries is a great idea. Being very careful with your movement is good, but it is better to have a strong body so when you find yourself in a tight spot, your muscles will be able to overcome it as much as possible. Sienna Christie

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