Physio advice on relieving shoulder pain
Pain Management, Sports Performance

Top three Physiotherapy exercises for a rotator cuff injury

The rotator cuff is a very versatile joint and is made up of four different muscles. These muscles are the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. They originate from the shoulder blade on your back and wrap around to the top of the shoulder. The shoulder joint is very shallow. Strong and stable rotator cuff muscles are essential to reduce the risk of injury. People who use their shoulders in sport, or everyday tasks at work, should complete simple rotator cuff exercises to prevent injury.

Rotator cuff strengthening exercises:

There are numerous rotator cuff strengthening exercises available online. The trick is to use the correct exercises at the correct time. That is why it’s always best to get assessed by a Physiotherapist before you attempt any exercises. You may be doing the wrong exercise or an inappropriate exercise, depending on the severity of the injury. You can book online for an appointment or send us an email if you have any questions.

The below are examples of rotator cuff exercises. These could be attempted at various stages through the rehab program, as guided by your Physiotherapist.

1. Isometric External Rotation

Resist pushing your arm inwards/outwards. Hold each direction for 30-40 seconds and keep the pain under 4/10. (10 extremely sore and 0 being no pain). Repeat this 3 times in a row, once to twice, daily, depending on your pain.

Isometric external rotation

2. External Rotation Strengthening

Tie a resistance band onto a sturdy structure or stand on it. While holding the resistance band, raise your arm out to the side, to a 90-degree angle at your elbow and shoulder joint. Start with a light resistance band and work your way up to a stronger resistance band over time. Repeat this 8-12 times for 3 sets. 3-4 times per week. Minimal pain should be felt when doing this.

External rotation strengthening

3. Internal Rotation Strengthening

Using a resistance band, stand on the end of it with your foot on the opposite side to your injured shoulder. Start the movement near your hip on the opposite side and pull the band across your body, keeping your elbow fully straight and thumb pointing down. Visualise this movement as drawing a sword. Repeat this 8-12 times for 3 sets. 3-4 times per week as pain allows. Minimal pain should be felt during this exercise.

Internal rotation strengthening

Exercises to avoid:

Avoid any exercise that causes you pain. If the position that causes you pain is a must-do due to occupation, then you should first be assessed by a physiotherapist. Secondly, if possible, I would advise taking time off work until the pain eases. If it is not possible, then modify what you are doing so that you can avoid doing that activity. Alternatively, find a different way of doing the activity by discussing this with your manager at work.

From a gym/sports point of view, stop doing the exercise that aggravates it. You should then attempt the exercises mentioned above for one week. If it does not improve, book an appointment with us as soon as possible.

Exercises that can cause a rotator cuff injury:

Repetitive overhead/reaching tasks at work or throwing movements in sport can irritate the rotator cuff tendons. This may include cricket, baseball, and squash. In a gym environment, the shoulder press exercises with dumbbells can sometimes cause discomfort. This mainly occurs when lifting a weight up into the starting position of a shoulder press. At this point, your elbow and shoulder are at a 90-degree angle. This places the shoulder joint at its most vulnerable. The stability of the shoulder is then completely reliant on the strength and proprioception of the rotator cuff muscles.

How can I relieve rotator cuff pain at night?

The best way is to contact us for a tailored treatment plan for a quick recovery. Avoid lying on your painful side in bed and stop doing the activities that aggravate it in your day-to-day life. Speak with your GP or Pharmacist for suitable pain relief. This is helpful in the early acute stages of a rehabilitation program to get the pain under control. There is a lot of research linking a good night’s sleep to faster recovery rates after an injury.

The rotator cuff is a versatile and important group of muscles in the shoulder joint. Weekly strengthening and neuromuscular exercises would be advisable. Particularly for anyone who needs to do repetitive overhead tasks at work or throwing activities for sport/hobbies. To find out the best exercises for a rotator cuff injury contact us now for a physiotherapy appointment. Alternatively, please book directly online. You can also book in with us for an rotator cuff injury prevention programme also.

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