Torn Rotator Cuff Exercises

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torn rotator cuff can be managed with following some general exercise guidelines. Obviously the success in reducing your shoulder joint pain will in part depend on the size of the rotator cuff tear.




Of course, as part of the overall treatment program, utilize ice therapy to help minimize localized pain and swelling. I suggest icing the shoulder for 10 minutes following the exercise routine. In addition, to minimize inflammation, avoid all aggravating activities.

It is important with a torn rotator cuff that both stretching and strengthening exercises be performed pain free. Shoulder stretching may result in some discomfort, but pain should be avoided.

If you are experiencing limitation in the range of motion of the shoulder, start with the stretching exercises. Once your mobility reaches near normal, progress to the strengthening exercises. If you do not have any limitation in your ROM, begin with following the recommended strengthening exercises.


Torn Rotator Cuff Stretching Exercises


shoulder flexion

Supine Shoulder Flexion

Lying flat on your back, grab a stick/golf club/bat with both hands, shoulder width apart. Keeping elbows straight, lift both arms up and overhead, using the uninjured shoulder to control the movement. Stretch the shoulder in this overhead position to the point of discomfort but not pain. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, repeat 3 times.



shoulder abduction

Shoulder Wall Abduction Stretch

While facing a wall, walk the injured arm up overhead until a stretch but no pain is felt in the shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. While keeping the arm in this overhead position, rotate your body away from the wall. Hold for another 10 seconds. Repeat this process 3 times.



shoulder external rotation stretch

Table External Rotation Stretch

Place yourself in a sitting position along side a table. Rest your arm on the table with the elbow in a 90 degree flexed position. Keeping your forearm and elbow flat on the table, lean your body forward until you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Hold this stretch 10 to 15 seconds and repeat 3 times.




Torn Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercises


shoulder external rotation strengthening

Side lying External Rotation

While lying on your uninjured side, tuck a rolled up towel between your injured arm and elbow. Using a light weight (2 lbs – 3 lbs) and keeping your elbow flexed at a 90 degree angle, slowly rotate your arm from next to your body up toward the ceiling, then lower back toward your body. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Make sure to perform movement in a slow controlled fashion. Because the rotator cuff muscles are endurance muscles, when the exercise becomes easy, increase the number of repetitions before increasing the weight.



shoulder scaption

Shoulder Standing Scaption

Start in a standing position, using a light (2 lbs to 3 lbs) weight. Begin with your arms at your side. Lift arms up (at a 30 degree angle from straight out to the side) to shoulder height. Make sure to lead with the thumbs and keep your elbows straight. Avoid shrugging your shoulders by focusing on keeping your shoulder blades in a down and back position. Perform 3 sets of this slow movement, 10 to 15 repetitions. Over time, when the exercise becomes easy, increase the difficulty of the exercise by increasing the number of repetitions before increasing weight.



shoulder rows

Shoulder Row

Attach a thera-band resistance band to a door. While facing the door in a standing position, grab the thera-band with both elbows extended. Move both arms backward while allowing the elbows to flex. Finish with squeezing your shoulder blades together. Avoid shrugging your shoulders by focusing on keeping your shoulder blades in a down and back position. Perform 3 sets of this slow movement, 10 to 15 repetitions. Over time, when the exercise becomes easy, increase the difficulty of the exercise by increasing the number of repetitions before increasing weight.



shoulder press ups

Seated Shoulder Press Ups

Use a sturdy table or chair to do this exercise. Keeping your arms in a straight position, shift your weight forward so your body is supported by your arms. Slightly lift your body up by contracting the muscles around your shoulder blades. The amount of movement will be small. Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.


A torn rotator cuff does not have to mean surgery. Follow these recommended exercises to help you return to normal shoulder function.

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