The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround and stabilize the shoulder joint. These muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. They work together to provide dynamic stability to the shoulder, allowing for a wide range of motion and facilitating movements such as lifting, reaching, and rotating the arm. The supraspinatus muscle is responsible for aiding in all movements of the shoulder, while the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles assist with external rotation of the arm, and the subscapularis muscle aids in internal rotation of the arm.
Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear
Injury to the rotator cuff, such as strains, tears, or tendinopathy, can occur due to repetitive overhead movements, trauma, aging, or degenerative changes. Common symptoms of rotator cuff injuries include pain, weakness, limited range of motion, and difficulty performing daily activities or specific shoulder movements.
Best exercises for a rotator cuff injury
To address rotator cuff injuries, exercises are often prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Although it would be nice to have one exercise that improves the entire rotator cuff, this is not the case. It’s important to note that the type and intensity of exercises may vary depending on the specific condition of the rotator cuff, the severity of the injury, and individual factors. Therefore, seeking professional advice from a medical professional or physiotherapist is crucial to ensure appropriate exercises are prescribed.
Below are a few exercises that can provide you with a general overview of some commonly recommended exercises for the rotator cuff:
- Prone External and Internal Rotation: This exercise targets all the rotator cuff muscles. Lie face down on a table or bench with the affected arm resting on two towels and bent to 90 degrees, hanging off the bench. Keep your elbow and shoulder at 90 degrees while rotating your arm forward and backward. The difficulty of this exercise can be increased by removing the supporting towels. Without the towels, there is increased demand on your muscles as they hold your arm in the correct position.
- Seated Banded Pulls: This exercise targets the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor. While sitting, hold a resistance band shoulder-width apart with both arms. With palms facing up, pull both ends of the band while keeping your elbows at your sides. The difficulty can be increased by holding the band closer together or adding more resistance.
- Wall Climbs: This exercise targets the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor. While standing facing the wall, have a resistance band around your wrists and touch the wall with the outside of both hands. Keep your elbows and wrists aligned shoulder-width apart as you slide both hands up the wall. Once your arms cannot go further, slide them back down to the starting position. The difficulty can be increased by lifting your hands off the wall and up instead of sliding them.
Remember, these exercises are general recommendations and might not be suitable for everyone. It’s important to approach these exercises with caution and follow the guidance of a healthcare professional or physiotherapist. They can provide proper instruction on performing the exercises correctly, ensure appropriate progression, and monitor your response to the exercises to avoid exacerbating the injury or causing further damage.
How to manage symptoms
Additionally, rest, ice, and pain management techniques may be recommended in the early stages of injury or as part of the overall treatment plan. In some cases, more severe rotator cuff injuries may require surgical intervention. Remember, each person’s condition is unique, and the exercises prescribed should be tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Seeking professional advice and adhering to their recommendations is crucial for optimal recovery and rehabilitation of rotator cuff injuries.