12 Effective Torn Rotator Cuff Exercises to Heal Your Shoulders

The group of muscles around your shoulder that are attached by tendons to the joint allow your arm to move and keep the shoulder stable. These muscles and tendons form the rotator cuff. Injury to the tendons may cause swelling and pain due to rotator cuff tendinitis, or a rotator cuff tear, which is often associated with injuryoroveruse. Torn rotator cuff exercises can help improve your symptoms and restore shoulder joint function.

Torn Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator cuff injuries often lead to severe pain, stiffness, and weakness of the shoulder. To achieve recovery of function after healing, you have to do some rotator cuff injury exercises to make your muscles stronger and your joint more flexible.

Exercise #1

Lie on your stomach on a bed or table. Starting with your left, spread your arm out at shoulder level and bend your elbow 90° so that your hand is down. With your elbow remaining bent, slowly raise your hand. Stop at the level of your shoulder and lower the hand slowly. Do this exercise repeatedly until your arm gets tired. Now do the same exercise with the right arm.

Exercise #2

Place a rolled-up towel under the right armpit and then lie sideways on your left. With your left arm at your side, bend the elbow 90° and let your forearm rest against your chest with the palm down. Now stretch your right arm above the head and roll your shoulder out, raising the forearm until it is level with the shoulder. This is like doing a backhand swing when playing tennis. Then lower your arm slowly. Do this exercise until your arm gets tired. Do the same exercise with the left arm.

Exercise #3

Lie on a table at your right side with your left arm resting on the upper side of the body. Bend the right elbow 90° and let the forearm rest on the table. Then roll the right shoulder in and raise the forearm up to the chest. This is like doing the forehand swing when playing tennis. Then lower your forearm slowly. Do this movement until your arm gets tired. Repeat the exercise with your left arm.

Exercise #4

While standing, raise your right arm halfway between the side and front of the body, with your thumb down. Raise the arm about 45° like you are emptying a can. Do not lift your arm beyond the point of pain. Then slowly lower the arm. Repeat until your arm gets tired. Do the same exercise with your left arm.

Exercise #5: Pendulum Stretch

This exercise helps to prevent you from developing a frozen shoulder. You can do this right after a shoulder injury. You can also do this as part of your rotator cuff rehab after getting a steroid injection in the shoulder joint. Here’s how to do it:

  • With your shoulder muscles relaxed, sit or stand and place your arms close to your body.
  • Swing the affected arm slowly, forward, backward, then side to side. Rotate it in small circles (about one foot diameter) in each direction. You should experience only minimal pain.
  • Stretch the arm for three to seven days. Then increase stretch by using one to two-pound weights (or 0.5 to 1 kg weights) per week. Gradually increase the diameter of rotating movements, but not greater than 18-24 inches.

Exercise #6: Wand Exercises

The goal of this torn rotator cuff exercise is to be able to fully extend the affected arm at shoulder height, 90° from your body using a long rod.

  • Use the hand on the injured side to hold the end of the rod. The opposite unaffected hand holds the rod in the middle.
  • Using the unaffected hand, guide the rod so that the affected arm is extended away from the body. Do this until the affected hand is approximately at shoulder height (but lower, if there is pain). Keep the affected arm straight.
  • Now slowly lower the affected arm until it is next to your body. You may rest as needed. Repeat the exercise 15-20 times daily.
  • For variation, direct the affected hand using the rod in front of your body and slightly behind your body. Do not exceed shoulder height. Stop if these torn rotator cuff exercises cause pain.

Exercise #7: Posterior Capsule Stretching

Tight ligaments around the shoulder sometimes develop after an injury in the rotator cuff. This can contribute to pain and movement abnormalities of the shoulder. Rotator cuff rehab can be done using the sleeper stretch. While lying on your back, extend your arms towards the ceiling in front of you. Bend the elbows then hold the wrist of the affected arm with the other hand. Gently push the affected arm down, towards the floor. Do this move until you feel a stretch in the affected shoulder and hold for five seconds. Do this 15-20 times (one set). You will be able to push the arm closer to the floor as your range of motion increases.

Exercise #8: Scapular Squeezes

Lie on the floor but keep your knees bent and feet flat. Place your arms straight out, about 6 to 12 inches away from the body, palms facing up. Keep your low back flat and squeeze your shoulder blades towards the spine and towards each other. Keep your neck relaxed and try not to shrug the shoulders. You will feel the muscles between your shoulders contracting. Now hold this position for 5 seconds then rest as needed. Repeat 10-15 times. Perform this exercise up to 3 times daily.

You can also try this while sitting down. Squeeze your shoulder blades together while

pulling your hands apart.

Exercise #9: Quadruped Elbow Taps

Get down on your hands and knees and keep your back flat with elbows straight. Place the unaffected hand on the affected elbow, but maintain your body position. Hold for 5-8 seconds. Put back the hand to the ground and pause for 3-5 seconds. Do this also for the other side, using 5-8 repetitions on each side. You will feel the arm that holds the body up as well as your trunk.

Exercise #10: Outward Rotation Exercise

While holding your arms close to the sides, bend your elbows 90°. Hold each end of a rubber band with your hands and rotate the affected arm outward about two to three inches. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back during this exercise. Hold the position for five seconds. Repeat 10-15 times.

Do this exercise through all ranges of motion without pain.

Exercise #11: Inward Rotation Exercise

While holding your arms close to the sides, bend your elbows 90°. Hook a rubber band onto a door handle. Grasp the other end with one hand. Rotate the forearm towards your body about two to three inches so that your forearm swings like a door. Hold the position for five seconds. Repeat 10-15 times.

Exercise #12: Abduction Exercise

With your elbows bent 90°, place a rubber band near the elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades down and backwards. Lift your arms four to five inches away from your body and hold for five seconds. Avoid shrugging your shoulders. Repeat 10-15 times.

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