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Home > Health Library > Rotator Cuff Problems: Exercises You Can Do at Home
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Exercises are a very important part of
treatment for a
rotator cuff disorder. If pain, weakness, and
stiffness in your shoulder are related to problems with your rotator cuff, a
doctor will usually first recommend nonsurgical treatment.
Exercises, combined with periods of rest, ice, and heat and taking nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), resolve most rotator cuff
problems. If the pain in or function of your shoulder does not improve with
these methods, surgery or other treatment may be considered.
need to avoid certain motions and everyday activities that make your problems
worse, such as reaching into the backseat of your car or stretches that pull
your arms toward your back. Be careful when you begin your exercises. Slow down
or stop the activity if needed.
Exercises also play a role when
your rotator cuff is treated surgically. You will work with your doctor and physical therapist to plan an exercise program that helps you
regain as much strength and flexibility in your
shoulder as possible.
you start these exercises, talk with your doctor or physical therapist. It is
important to be consistent and do the exercises as directed.
But stop exercising
and call your health professional if you are not sure you are doing them
correctly or if you have any pain. Any discomfort you feel during exercise should not last more than 2 hours after you finish. And pain should not wake you up at night.
Clicking and popping during
exercise are not necessarily cause for concern. But a grinding sensation may
point to another problem.
If your shoulder is sore after you
exercise, ice it.
If you have had surgery to repair a rotator cuff tear, you
will not usually begin any active exercises until at least 3 to 6 weeks after
surgery. Active exercise might be allowed right away after surgery for tendinitis. Be sure to follow your surgeon's advice on when exactly these
exercises are appropriate. Also, most people wear an immobilizing
sling or shoulder brace after surgery. You will need to ask your doctor about getting
help taking it off before you exercise and replacing it at the end
of the session. A friend, family member, or physical therapist may be able to
help you if your doctor approves.
You should master the
stretching exercises and be able to put your shoulder through its full range of
motion before you begin strengthening routines. Do the stretching exercises 5
to 10 times a day.
The list below links to specific stretching exercises
with pictures and instructions. The pendulum swing is a good exercise to start with.
exercises only after you have your doctor's approval. Usually
these exercises are started gradually as soon as you can do the stretching
routine without pain. But these and other similar exercises usually should not
be done until at least 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.
For any strengthening exercises where your arms start
at or stretch from your sides, the motion should be on a diagonal about 30
degrees to the front of where your arms would make a T when raised 90
degrees to the side.
The list below links to specific strengthening exercises
with pictures and instructions.
blade (scapula) is one of the main bones of the shoulder joint. It stabilizes
the shoulder from the back side. If the scapula doesn't move well, it puts a
lot of pressure on the rotator cuff and related muscles, which can cause
strain. Also, if the scapula is not moving properly, there is an
increased risk of impingement in the subacromial space.
exercises can help you keep or improve strength around the shoulder blade to
help with rotator cuff function.
The list below links to specific
scapular strengthening exercises with pictures and instructions.
October 7, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Timothy Bhattacharyya, MD
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