Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator Cuff Exercises

Article by John Miller

Rotator Cuff Exercises

Why is Rotator Cuff Exercise Important?

Many muscles are involved in shoulder movement, and all work together, but strengthening the rotator cuff is especially essential. Your rotator cuff is the primary stabiliser of the shoulder joint.

If the ball of the upper arm sits abnormally, abnormal stress is placed on surrounding tissue and may cause gradual injury. Strengthening the rotator cuff helps prevents common rotator cuff injuries, including tendinopathies, rotator cuff tears, and shoulder impingement syndrome.

Age-related changes in rotator cuff tendons leave them less elastic and more susceptible to injury. There is also a gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs with ageing, which can be

What are your Rotator Cuff Muscles?

rotator cuff exercises

The supraspinatus is located at the top of the shoulder and abducts the shoulder – it raises the upper arm and moves it away from the body.

The subscapularis is at the front of the shoulder – it internally rotates the shoulder.

The infraspinatus and teres minor are in the back of the shoulder – they externally rotate the shoulder.

Each rotator cuff muscle moves the shoulder in a separate direction. However, as a muscle team, the rotator cuff muscles work together to stabilise the shoulder joint.

The long head of the biceps tendon that runs over the top of the humerus and connects at the top of the shoulder joint helps stabilise the shoulder joint. By lifting something substantial, overloading your biceps may cause biceps tendon overload, resulting in bicipital tendinopathy. Strengthening the biceps helps prevent injury.

Strengthening all the rotator cuff muscles is essential, but premature strengthening can delay healing and cause more pain. For specific advice regarding injury-appropriate rotator cuff strengthening, please seek the professional advice of an experienced shoulder physiotherapist.

Scapular Stabilisation Exercises

Rotator cuff exercises are rarely effective in isolation. You should have your scapular stability assessed and undertake scapular stabilisation exercises to address any deficiencies. Your physiotherapist will prescribe appropriate exercises following your scapulohumeral rhythm assessment. You should seek the professional advice of an experienced shoulder physiotherapist to have your shoulder accurately assessed and managed.

Common Shoulder Pain & Injury Conditions

Rotator Cuff

Adhesive Capsulitis

Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder Instability

Acromioclavicular Joint

Bone Injuries

Post-Operative Physiotherapy

Muscle Conditions

Systemic Conditions

Referred Pain

Shoulder Treatment

Researchers have discovered that managing your shoulder injury with physiotherapy is usually successful. Typically, you have two options: a non-operative or a surgical approach. Your condition will dictate which option is best for you at this time. Non-operative care is conservative rehabilitation.

If shoulder surgery is required, then your physiotherapist may undertake:

Pre-operative rehabilitation  - either trial a non-operative/conservative treatment approach or condition and prepare your shoulder and body for a surgical procedure.

Post-operative physiotherapy will safely regain your normal range of movement, strength and function.

PhysioWorks physiotherapists have a particular interest and an excellent working relationship with leading shoulder surgeons. Our physiotherapy team provide you with both conservative and post-operative shoulder rehabilitation options. We aim for you to attain the best possible outcome for your shoulder injury.

For specific information regarding your shoulder, please consult your trusted shoulder physiotherapist.

Acute Injury Signs

Acute Injury Management.

Here are some warning signs that you have an injury. While some injuries are immediately evident, others can creep up slowly and progressively get worse. If you don't pay attention to both types of injuries, chronic problems can develop.

For detailed information on specific injuries, check out the injury by body part section.

Don't Ignore these Injury Warning Signs

Joint Pain

Joint pain, particularly in the knee, ankle, elbow, and wrist joints, should never be ignored. Because these joints are not covered by muscle, pain here is rarely of muscular origin. Joint pain that lasts more than 48 hours requires a professional diagnosis.

Tenderness

If you can elicit pain at a specific point in a bone, muscle, or joint, you may have a significant injury by pressing your finger into it. If the same spot on the other side of the body does not produce the same pain, you should probably see your health professional.  

Swelling

Nearly all sports or musculoskeletal injuries cause swelling. Swelling is usually quite obvious and can be seen, but occasionally you may feel as though something is swollen or "full" even though it looks normal. Swelling usually goes along with pain, redness and heat.

Reduced Range of Motion

If the swelling isn't obvious, you can usually find it by checking for a reduced range of motion in a joint. If there is significant swelling within a joint, you will lose range of motion. Compare one side of the body with the other to identify major differences. If there are any, you probably have an injury that needs attention.

Weakness

Compare sides for weakness by performing the same task. One way to tell is to lift the same weight with the right and left sides and look at the result. Or try to place body weight on one leg and then the other. A difference in your ability to support your weight is another suggestion of an injury that requires attention.

Immediate Injury Treatment: Step-by-Step Guidelines

  • Stop the activity immediately.
  • Wrap the injured part in a compression bandage.
  • Apply ice to the injured part (use a bag of crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables).
  • Elevate the injured part to reduce swelling.
  • Consult your health practitioner for a proper diagnosis of any serious injury.
  • Rehabilitate your injury under professional guidance.
  • Seek a second opinion if you are not improving.