A rotator cuff injury can be debilitating. Not only is it painful, but it is typically slow to heal and can limit your range of motion. While it is common to see the injury in professional athletes, anyone can injure their rotator cuff.

Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that allow your shoulder joint to move. Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint, which allows your arm complete range of motion at the shoulder. Unlike elbows, wrists, knees, and other joints that only have a limited motion range, your shoulder joint works with your rotator cuff to move your arm in almost any direction.

When you’ve suffered from a rotator cuff injury, typically either an impingement, where the muscle has swollen, or a tear, where the muscle or ligament has ripped or torn, it can severely limit your range of motion and cause pain in your shoulder. These injuries are often caused by repetitive overhead motions, like throwing a baseball or lifting boxes to stock shelves, but they can also be caused by a traumatic injury to the muscles or ligaments.

If you are suffering from a rotator cuff injury you will want to use rest, ice, compression, and elevation, otherwise known as the RICE method, to help your muscles begin to heal. Once you are no longer in pain there are 5 exercises you can do to help prevent a loss of range of motion from your injury. These exercises can be done on their own, or you can add a resistance band or a small dumbbell if you feel strong enough to do so.

If your injury does not heal correctly, you have difficulty raising your arm, or you have trouble sleeping on your arm for more than a few days, contact your doctor right away.

Doorway Stretch

Start by standing in a doorway with your arms held out from your sides. Grab the doorway with each hand at or below shoulder height and lean forward through the doorway until you feel a mild stretch. While keeping your back straight, lean forward and shift your weight onto your toes to feel a stretch in your shoulder. Don’t over stretch!

High to Low Rows

Attach a resistance band to something at or above should height. Choose an object that cannot tip over, like a doorframe. Kneel so that the knee that is on the side of your injury on the ground and hold the band with your injured arm outstretched. While keeping your back straight, pull your injured arm toward your body, squeezing your shoulder blades together and down. Do not move or twist your body while you do three sets of ten.

Lying External Rotation

Lie down on the opposite side of your injury, bending the elbow of your injured arm at a 90 degree angle, resting your elbow on your side. Holding a light hand weight in your hand on your injured side, slowly raise and lower your arm toward the ceiling before bringing it back down across your abdomen. Start with three sets of ten and move up to three sets of twenty once the exercise becomes too easy.

Reverse Fly

Bend your knees slightly and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend forward slightly at the waist, keeping your back straight. With a light dumbbell in each hand, extend your arms away from your body at shoulder height, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Perform three sets of ten.

Lawn Mower

Place your feet shoulder-width apart, holding one end of a resistance band under the foot opposite your injured shoulder. Grab the other end of the band with the hand of your injured arm, bringing the band across your body in a diagonal line. Pull the band as if starting a lawn mower, straightening your body while pulling your elbow across your ribcage. Repeat three sets of ten.

These exercises, paired with physical therapy, can decrease the need for surgery. Schedule a free consultation today!