Shoulder Impingement Exercises to Treat Rotator Cuff Tendinitis
In this post I’d like to show you a series of shoulder impingement exercises you can do to treat rotator cuff tendinitis.
Doing these exercises will help you to:
- Speed up the process of recovery
- Strengthen your rotator cuff muscles safely and effectively
- Help to prevent re-injury in future
These exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home and don’t involve any expensive equipment.
But most importantly: they really work.
So let’s begin.
What is rotator cuff tendinitis?
Often known as shoulder impingement, tennis shoulder or swimmer’s shoulder, tendinitis is the inflammation of tendons in your shoulder, causing pain and loss of mobility.
The cause of rotator cuff tendinitis is often from playing sports which involve lifting the arm over the head (swimmer’s shoulder being a very common variety).
But it can also be caused simply by bad postural or sleeping habits which build up over time.
Rotator cuff tendinitis symptoms
The symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis include:
- Shoulder pain in the front of your shoulder or side of arm
- Swelling in the affected areas
- Loss of shoulder mobility, especially when raising your arm or reaching behind your back
- A clicking sound when you move your shoulder
How do you treat rotator cuff tendinitis?
The good news is that most shoulder impingement injuries can be treated naturally without the need for surgery. Most people are able to regain full shoulder mobility.
It’s important that you see a physical therapy specialist early on, as only they will be able to diagnose your condition and know whether it really is tendinitis or another problem such as arthritis or simply a trapped nerve.
Usually the initial treatment for tendonitis will be just rest and avoiding movements which cause you pain.
Applying ice packs to your shoulder several times a day and taking an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen will help with pain management.
The next step will be to start physical therapy exercises like those shown below.
Exercises to Treat Rotator Cuff Tendinitis
The shoulder impingement exercises below are done using a physiotherapy shoulder pulley.
The shoulder pulley is one of the best ways to treat a shoulder impingement because they gently stretch out and strengthen the shoulder joint. They’re effective at relieving pain and speeding up recovery.
These 7 passive exercises should be done in the order they’re shown in. At the beginning, you may only be able to manage the first one. Over time, as your range of motion increases, you can move on to the next. Take it easy and listen to your shoulder.
Do 3-4 sets of each exercise, twice a day. Hold the stretch each time for about 10 seconds.
7 Shoulder Impingement Exercises
Sit facing the door, as shown. The uninjured arm will always pull the injured arm (in the pictures the left arm is injured). Pulling down on one handle lifts the opposite arm up and towards the door, allowing a gentle stretch in the shoulder joint.
Turn the chair 90 degrees and do the same exercise with your arm being lifted out to the side.
When your range of motion has increased you can turn the chair away from the door and lift the injured arm directly in front of you.
The next exercise, which you can start doing once you’ve improved further, is to change the angle so that your arm is at 45 degrees. Do the same movement at this angle.
Now you’ve improved even more so you can start the 5th movement, which is the same as the last two but with your arm at 90 degrees to the side.
Next, in a standing position, lift the injured arm behind your back. Start with small movements and gradually increase the range of motion.
The final shoulder impingement exercise using a shoulder pulley is outward rotations. Stand sideways to the door and pull the injured arm so that it rotates outward.
Keep a natural position without hunching up your shoulders or allowing them to slump forward. Your elbow should be held close to your side. Using a rolled up towel as shown can help.
Doing these passive exercises every day will help enormously to treat rotator cuff tendinitis.
Once your range of motion has improved dramatically, you can also use resistance bands to do further rotational exercise. These will help to strengthen your rotator cuff and injury-proof your shoulders.
3 resistance band exercises for tendinitis:
#1 Outward rotation
#2 Inward rotation
#3 Two-handed outward rotation
You can use different kinds of bands for these exercises, but I recommend:
Check out our post on physio shoulder exercises for more ideas on how to injury proof your shoulders.