Rotator cuff injuries are a common cause of shoulder pain and limited range of motion. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that attach to the shoulder blade and upper arm bone. These muscles work together to stabilize and move the shoulder joint. When one or more of these muscles or tendons are injured, it can cause pain, weakness, and limited movement.
Physical therapy is often recommended as a non-surgical treatment option for rotator cuff injuries. A physical therapist can develop an exercise program that is tailored to the individual's needs and can help improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
Here are some of the best physical therapy exercises for the rotator cuff:
The pendulum exercise is a gentle exercise that helps to loosen up the shoulder joint and improve mobility. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lean forward, keeping your back straight. Let your affected arm hang down towards the floor and use your non-affected arm to gently swing your affected arm in a circular motion. Repeat 10-15 times in each direction.
External rotation exercise
This exercise is designed to strengthen the external rotator muscles of the shoulder. Start by lying on your unaffected side with your affected arm resting on your hip. Bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle and place a towel roll or small pillow between your elbow and side. Slowly lift your hand away from your body while keeping your elbow at your side. Repeat 10-15 times for two sets.
Internal rotation exercise
This exercise targets the internal rotator muscles of the shoulder. Start by lying on your affected side with your arm resting on your hip. Bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle and use your unaffected hand to apply resistance against your affected hand as you rotate your hand towards your belly. Repeat 10-15 times for two sets.
Shoulder blade squeeze exercise
This exercise helps to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blade, which can help improve overall shoulder stability. Sit or stand with your arms at your sides and your shoulders relaxed. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for five seconds before releasing. Repeat 10-15 times for two sets.
Wall push-ups are a simple exercise that can help improve shoulder strength and stability. Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your palms against the wall. Slowly lower your chest towards the wall, keeping your elbows close to your sides, and then push back up to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times for two sets.
It's important to remember that not all exercises are appropriate for every person. If you're experiencing shoulder pain or have a rotator cuff injury, it's important to work with a physical therapist to develop a personalized exercise program that's safe and effective for you. In addition to exercises, your physical therapist may also recommend other treatments such as massage, manual therapy, or electrical stimulation to help manage pain and promote healing.