Rotator cuff injuries are probably one of the most frequent injuries experienced by athletes and non-athletes... Shoulder hurt? Don't put this off. Here are some treatment methods and exercises for a successful recovery.

By: Shannon Clark

If you've ever suffered from a rotator cuff injury you know just how painful and frustrating it can be. Not only does it likely stop you from working out, but even doing simple every day activities can pose to be a challenge.

Rotator cuff injuries are probably one of the most frequent injuries experienced by athletes and non-athletes because there are so many different tendons and ligaments surrounding your shoulder.

The rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the subscapularis and the teres minor, all of which are innervated by the subscapular and axillary nerves. The tendons of the rotator cuff combine to form one large band that is a 5 layer-structure.

Most of the tears that occur to the cuff are the result of chronic, ongoing degeneration that results from the coracoacromial arch. This is composed of the bony acromion, the coracoacromial ligament and the coracoid process. This arch is located just above where the supraspinatus tendon must pass through so this constant rubbing and microtrauma leads to potential injury.

Pain is going to be the most commonly noticed symptom of a rotator cuff injury and is usually located anterolaterally and superiorly. It will be aggravated during activities in which the arm moves into an overhead position or is in a flexed position directly in front of you. You may also notice that your shoulder feels weaker than normal and that there is some stiffness or clicking occurring.

Treatment Methods

More times than not treatment for a rotator cuff injury is going to involve rehabilitation exercises and rest. In extreme cases however more serious action needs to be taken. This could involve steroid injections to help relieve inflammation and pain or surgery, which may be needed if the tear is really large. If surgery is what you decide to do then normally they will remove a bone spur or calcium deposit that is causing the issue.

If your condition is extremely severe and continues to persist for an ongoing period of time though then the doctor may suggest that you get a partial or total shoulder replacement. This is usually only a resort though for those who are suffering from arthritis or extensive rotator cuff tears.

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Exercises To Do

In terms of exercises to do to both recover from and prevent future rotator cuff injuries, you will want to focus on both exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles themselves as well as the shoulder stabilizing and bicep muscles.

Rotator Cuff Muscles:

    Performing internal rotations with either dumbbells or rubber tubing is a very good exercise to start with. Remember to start with a lighter weight and move slowly through the movement when first starting out. After that you should move onto an external rotation, also using either dumbbells or rubber tubing so as to balance out these muscles.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Internal Rotations.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    Next you should perform a series of lateral raises, slightly altering your hand position for each one. For each one you will start by holding a light dumbbell in your hand. Then use three different hand grips, thumbs facing the ceiling (palms facing inwards), palms facing the ground, and thumbs facing the ground, raise the dumbbell up to shoulder level.

lateral raise lateral raise lateral raise
Click Image To Enlarge.
Lateral Raise Grip Variations.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    Note that you should perform 8-12 reps per arm per hand position. This will really help to target your shoulder muscle from a variety of different angles.

Scapula Stabilizing Muscles:

    Moving onto the scapular stabilizing exercises, performing a shoulder blade squeeze is a great start. Simply sit, back upright, in a chair and squeeze the shoulder blades as close together as you can. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then repeat 3 more times.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Click Image To Enlarge.
Shoulder Blade Squeeze.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    Moving on from that you can perform some wall push-ups, really focusing on moving deep into the movement so as to fully contract the shoulder blades.

wall push-ups wall push-ups
Click Image To Enlarge.
Wall Push-Ups.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    To advance from using the wall, you can do it on lower surfaces such as your kitchen counter or even better off of an aerobic step.

Lower Surface push-ups Lower Surface push-ups
Click Image To Enlarge.
Lower Surface Push-Ups.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    The final exercise to do for these muscles is a bent over row using dumbbells. While performing this exercise really concentrate on pulling from just under the shoulder blade rather than using the bicep muscles to assist the movement. It is best to do this one arm at a time to really feel the pull and contraction of the back muscles.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Bent Over Dumbbell Row.
Video Guide: Windows Media - Real Player

Bicep Muscles:

    Concluding the exercises you should perform for rotator cuff injury prevention are any type of bicep curls. There are a multitude of options here, from dumbbell curls to barbell curls to EZ-bar curls so you should have no problems finding a way to strengthen this muscle group.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Dumbbell Curls.
Video Guide: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    Most importantly, like any injury you must remember not to just jump back into your workout once you think you have recovered. Chances are your muscles are still going to be slightly weaker even once you have healed so it's smart to start out with a slightly reduced weight for all of your upper body exercises.

    Pushing too hard is only going to set yourself up for risking re-injuring it again and going through the entire process once more is something I am sure you do not wish to do.

Have You Ever Injured Your Rotator Cuff?




Don't Let A Rotator Cuff Injury Stop You!

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Thanks! how often should these exercises be performed? I am recovering from impingement and stiffness but getting there.( I have been doing band exercise twice a day and stretches do I need to continue with these?)And how many sets for bent row and curls? I am 62

Dec 3, 2013 5:25am | report

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I just injured my rotator cuff :( Just came on out of the blue it seemed. I had a great back workout Friday night, then Saturday did 3 hours of massage (I'm an MT) and an hour later, started feeling pain in my left RC area :( I iced and thought maybe a good sleep would help, but no. Any ideas? I'm very worried about this. I have a show in April and I don't want to have to give it up due to this stupid injury now :(

Dec 8, 2013 7:17pm | report

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Curious as to what you did.

Aug 23, 2014 9:33am | report

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This is doing wonders for my shoulder. Thanks

Jun 7, 2014 9:01am | report

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hey Jnl3iii quick question? how did you work out routine chage, because i feel like anything i do it's going to hurt my shoulder? my pain started 2 days ago yesterday i didnt lift and i want to start doing these excercises, but do i stop lifting untill its better?

Dec 26, 2014 3:39am | report

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Cheers, mine has been caining for a month so only been training legs 2xweek instead, finished nsaids going back to dr next week maybe get mri, really hope it not torn but either way wont keep me down

Aug 24, 2014 4:59am | report
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