Rotator Cuff Injury

Shoulder injuries are a common phenomenon with sportspersons and athletes but these days shoulder pain, especially rotator cuff injuries, are becoming more common with everyone as we switch to more sedentary lifestyles.

Injuries to the rotator cuff can seriously affect day-to-day functionality as the rotator cuff is an essential group of muscles that stabilize the shoulder and allow movement. It enables day-to-day movements; whether it is reaching a shelf above you, getting dressed, pushing objects, or playing a sport, the rotator cuff facilitates a whole range of movements.

The most common injuries to the rotator cuff include tears and impingements that cause sharp pain and stiffness that you feel when you try to move your shoulder. Your initial treatment should be to rest and ice the affected area, and once it is healed, exercises for rotator cuff and shoulder conditioning should be performed to maintain long-term improvement and pain relief.

Exercises For Rotator Cuff

  • Side Rotation – The best thing about this exercise is that it grows with you. As you get better you can scale up this exercise with weights or lightweight objects. If your right shoulder is injured, this exercise should be performed lying on the left shoulder and vice versa. Bend the elbow of the injured arm to a 90-degree angle and rest it on your lying side.
    While keeping the elbow placed firmly on the lying side, hold a lightweight or a dumbbell depending on your condition and lift it. Hold this position for a few seconds and then rest. For people feeling discomfort while holding the position, stop rotating the arm once you feel the strain. Lessen the weights too, if you feel that you are not ready yet. 
  • Wall Stretch – A great exercise for rotator cuff and shoulder conditioning is a wall stretch. It is a simple, beginner, and injury-friendly exercise that can help relieve any sort of built-up tension and anguish. It is also a great warm-up stretch before any activity to avoid injury in the future.
    Start by warming up and spreading your arms, to make sure they get stretched. Then go to any wall or a door, stand against it while leaning forward until you feel a good stretch. Make sure to keep your back straight and spread your weight evenly on both legs so that you feel it in your shoulders. 
  • Rows – Another great strengthening exercise is rows. For this, it is better to use resistance bands or to hold on to something sturdy as you perform this exercise. Get down on your knee while keeping the knee opposite to your injured arm lifted. Make sure that the knee is on the ground and your body is in alignment.
    The other hand should be on the raised knee. Hold on to your resistance band while keeping your arm outstretched as you pull the elbow towards your body. Make sure you keep your back straight and squeeze the shoulder blades together as you pull. Remind yourself to be stable and not let your body wobble or twist with your arm. 
  • Reverse Fly – A great strengthening exercise to restore functionality after an injury, a reverse fly can be done using weights. Weights, either light or heavy depending on your comfort level, are a must-have for this exercise. The most important aspect of any weight-related exercise is maintaining a proper stance and avoiding future injuries.
    By bending forwards and standing shoulder-width apart with a light-weight in each stand, extend the shoulder and raise them away from the body. For this exercise, make sure not to raise your arms above shoulder height. Repeat this 10 times on each arm.

  • Diagonal ArmPull – Also known as the lawnmower pull, this is a great stretch and exercise for rotator cuff and shoulder conditioning. You can use a resistance band for this as this tool dramatically improves the strength of the shoulder avoiding future injuries. To perform this exercise start with your legs shoulder-width apart and place the resistance band near your foot opposite the arm that is injured.
    Hold one end of the resistance band under the foot and the other with the injured arm, so the pull is diagonal across your body. Continue this exercise while keeping some safety measures in mind. Keep your other hand on the hip, avoid locking your knees and make sure to bend at the waist so that the band is parallel to the opposite knee.
    Make sure that you are keeping your shoulders relaxed as you straighten up while pulling the elbow across your body to the outside ribs. You can reference performing a lawnmower pull in slow motion to get the exact reference for this motion.

Also Read: Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis) – Causes and Symptoms

Exercises for Shoulder Conditioning

These exercises mentioned above are targeted towards your rotator cuff, so let’s explore the exercises that will target your shoulder, and help in shoulder conditioning. These exercises target the deltoids, subscapularis, and infraspinatus which are crucial target areas that will enhance functionality and leave your shoulder muscles stronger than before to avoid injuries in the long term. Another plus point- these exercises do not need any equipment! 

  • Internal Rotation – By working on the subscapularis, this exercise helps give a long and great stretch on your shoulder. By holding on to a stick or shoulder, you can repeat 4 times on each side for impact. Hold on to a stick in the back and hold the other end with your other hand. Pull the stick horizontally so that you can feel a great stretch without feeling pain or discomfort and hold for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Make sure that you do not lean over or twist while performing this exercise. 
  • Arm Swing – This is a great warm-up exercise before getting ready for a game, your day, or even in between work. You can use a table or a door for support to perform this stretch. By leaning forward and placing one hand on a table for support, swing the other arm forward and back and repeat on the opposite side in the same circular motion. Be sure not to lock your knees or around the back while performing this exercise. 

  • Diagonal Shoulder Stretch – By working the posterior deltoid, this is a great shoulder stretch to perform like a cool down after working out, or playing a sport. This stretch is felt at the back of the shoulder and can be done 5-6 times a week for optimal results. Begin by relaxing your shoulder and pulling one arm across the chest, holding the upper arm. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other arm. Make sure that you are not putting additional pressure on your elbow while performing this exercise.

Also Read: How To Examine Your Shoulder to See What’s Troubling You!

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