Accelerate Physical Therapy

3 Types of Exercise to Help with Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Rotator cuff tendonitis is a condition when there is inflammation within the group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder. There are 4 groups of tendons that form over the humeral head, which work together with the deltoid muscle, and help to control the rotation and elevation of your arm.

People who do repetitive overhead motions are more prone to developing rotator cuff tendonitis. Examples of common everyday activities placing a person at higher risk include washing windows, pitching baseballs, raking, or frequent lifting overhead.

Fortunately, there are a few exercises that can help diminish the pain. Below, it’s broken down into 3 categories with various exercises to consider.

1. Stretching Exercises to Warm Up

Just like any other area of the body, appropriate stretching and warming up the shoulder is important to an exercise routine involving the shoulder. In addition to loosening up the muscles, it also increases blood flow to benefit the healing process.

If you are working with a physical therapist, you might be asked to do some of the following exercises (all can be done either sitting or standing):

  • Shoulder Roll – Start by rolling both of your shoulders forward. Next “shrug” and squeeze your shoulders upward, and then pull backwards to lower the shoulders, all while stretching them with each motion. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Shoulder Blade Squeeze – Raise your arms upward, hands reaching for the ceiling or sky, elbows bent at a 90° angle. As your palms face forward, gently pull your arms backward, squeezing through the shoulder blades. Next, bring your arms forward until they come together in front of you. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Shoulder Swing – Bending forward at your waist, let your arms hang freely. Start moving them in a small circular pattern. Using only your shoulders, raise both arms upward about 3 inches, all while maintaining the circular motion. Again, raise them another 3 inches, and keep doing this until your arms start to tire.

These stretches help you gain strength and increase blood flow, which is important in supporting and healing the shoulder area, and may be done daily, with a doctor or physical therapist approval.

2. Exercises without Required Weight

Exercises without using weight can be done just about anywhere, making the following easy to do at home:

  • Elastic Band Exercise – Tie an elastic band to something stable, such as a doorknob of closed door, or similar height. Grabbing the loose end, keep your arm down by your side. Standing with your opposite side facing the band with your elbow at a 90° angle, gently pull the band outward away from you. Do this 10-15times with both arms.
  • Wall Pushups – Standing approximately 18 inches out from a wall, lean forward with your hands touching the wall at shoulder height and width. Slowly and gently bend your elbows as your body comes into the wall, and then push back out again. These are similar to a push up on the floor, only much easier on the rotator cuff. Repeat about 10 times.

As your injury heals, you can add more resistance to these exercises, as well as increase the repetitions.

3. Exercises that Require a Weight

It’s important to gain strength, which often requires an element of extra resistance, such as weights. These should be done 2-3 times a week, as long as you are not experiencing sharp pains:

  • External Rotation (Facing Down) – Lying face down on a bench, grab 2 weights, such as dumbbells. Bending the elbows at a 90° angle, with your arms away from your body, gently raise the weights up from the floor. Gently, lower them back down to the floor. Repeat these steps 5-10 times.
  • External Rotation (Lying on Your Side) – Lying on your side on the floor or on a bench, hold a weight with your elbow tight to your body. Keep your elbow and upper arm at your side, gently lift the weight upward, and then lower it again. Repeat this 5-10 times for each arm.

Use a weight that allows for resistance, but not too heavy that it could lead to further injury.

With all the above exercises, if you are in the midst of the tendonitis it’s best to ice the affected area after each exercise. Also, make sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise routine, especially with an active injury.