Rotator Cuff Therapy Exercises

Rotator Cuff Rehabilitation


Rotator cuff rehabilitation is a lengthy process designed to slowly and safely return your rotator cuff to peak fitness.

Done correctly and diligently many people find that, rotator cuff rehab, rather than simply restore function actually improves it.

The shoulder emerges from the whole process stronger and healthier. Why is this? Well it is fair to say that a lot of rotator cuff tears happen originally due to a lack of rotator cuff muscle strength.

The rotator cuff rehabilitation period of steadily increasing strength and mobility is often the first dedicated treatment the rotator cuff undergoes. Be honest now, can you really say you gave your rotator cuff any serious attention?



Certainly from my own experience I found this to be true. Although I was healthy and active I did no specific rotator cuff exercises. It took me until my second tear to finally and fully appreciate the importance of rotator cuff rehabilitation.

So just exactly what can you expect from a program of rotator cuff physical therapy? Firstly all physical therapy rotator cuff routines will vary slightly dependant upon your Physical Therapist and your actual injury. That said, the variations will only be minor and most rotator cuff rehab schedules will follow this basic pattern.

Rotator Cuff RehabilitationGeneral considerations

Before I go through the standard Rotator cuff rehabilitation program, there are a couple of other very important factors.

Quite simply the fitter you are the easier and quicker this will be.

This really is not me nagging; it is just common sense stuff we all already know.

You never know if were not a regular exerciser this could be the spur you needed?

Try to eat well and sleep well. Try to give up smoking if you're a smoker and don't drink too much (just as well you won't be able to lift a beer for a while!).

Try and do some aerobic exercise, even walking or an exercise bike will help; if you have to get on a real bike please DO NOT fall off onto your shoulder. Increased blood flow and oxygen levels will greatly benefit the whole healing process.

Start slowly and build it up

Remember at all times if you start to have too much pain stop. If you have any tenderness after exercise, continue to use ice treatment to soothe. Initially what you want to achieve is slowly increasing mobility. This will reduce any potential for scarring and stiffness.

Start with passive or assisted motion and move on, when you are ready, to active or unassisted motion. Slowly build in resistance motion exercises by doing rotator cuff exercises with elastic. Finally move up to rotator cuff weight exercises but even here start with low weights and progress slowly.

Passive motion - The shoulder is moved but without the rotator cuff muscles doing any work. Effectively you or someone else moves the arm

Active motion - During the active motion phase you utilise your rotator cuff muscles to move your shoulder without aid. Under no circumstances apply any resistance.

Rotator cuff exercises with elastic - Once you have minimal pain and a reasonable range of motion in your shoulder, you can move onto resistance exercises. These usually start with what is known as tubing exercises.

The 'tubing' is also known as a theraband; it is simply just a big rubber elastic band. This is tied to something at one end, and you hold the other end and pull the band thereby stretching it and providing resistance for your shoulder.

Rotator cuff weight exercises - A natural progression is to move on to the use of weights. Doing the same exercises but introducing weights helps to further strengthen the rotator cuff.

A major part of the rotator cuff rehabilitation is the use of weights, not necessarily heavy weights, to guarantee a successful outcome. Do not forget to work on the surrounding muscles too.

Isolate each rotator cuff muscle

This is the key factor in successful rotator cuff rehab. You have a range of rotator cuff muscles so you need a range of exercises.

The subscapularis - is responsible for internally rotating the shoulder. It is best strengthened by holding your arm in front of the body, with the arm flexed to 90 degrees, and rotating the hand to touch the belt. The exercise can be performed while lying on your back with the elbow close to your side and flexed ninety degrees.

The supraspinatus - is an abductor of the arm. It is strengthened by holding out your arm straight in front of the body, with the thumbs pointed toward the floor. Slowly elevate the arm to above the head. Stop if pain is produced in any portion of this motion, as the rotator cuff is under maximal stress in this position.

The infraspinatus and teres minor - are responsible for laterally rotating the shoulder. They are best strengthened by holding you elbow in at your side with your hand out in front of you.

Then rotate the arm from this position out to the side. This exercise can also be performed while lying on your side.

These are simply the most basic exercises to show the difference in each muscle. Each can be used through the whole rotator cuff rehab period described above i.e. Passive, Active, Resistance and Weight.

Elsewhere on the site you will find a much greater range of rotator cuff rehab exercises take your time have a look through them and give them a try.

Remember however be patient, this is not a quick fix, but it is a really good, long lasting one. Rotator cuff rehabilitation done in the right way will certainly improve your quality of life.

I know because I have done it. Like you, I suffered for years with this problem but not now. I am stronger than ever and pain free, you could be too.


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