Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common injuries and one of the most feared, but they don’t need to be. With the right rotator cuff rehab exercises, your shoulder can be pain-free and strong again in no time.
There is a huge amount of research coming through that is showing that we have become far too reliant on surgery which often comes with its own risks and can lead to scar tissue and frozen shoulder. Current best practice recommends about 12 weeks of conservative rehab before looking into surgery if not improving. Recent studies have shown:
- Subacromial impingement and bursitis: Exercise is as effective as surgery AND reduces the need for surgery in 80%
- Rotator Cuff partial tear: Exercise is as effective as surgery
- Full Thickness Rotator cuff tears: Exercise reduces the need for surgery by 75%
That’s some fairly awesome stats from multiple studies and shows that with the right rehab exercises, there is a good chance your shoulder pain will resolve without the risk of surgery, so let’s get into it!
Following on from our stage 1 post on early Rotator Cuff Rehab, this is all you need to know to lay a strong base for your shoulder stabilizers.
Stage 2 Rotator Cuff Rehab: Building strength
This stage starts when you can lift your arm up in front of you over shoulder height at least. If you can’t do that, step back to stage 1 or consult your health professional
1. External rotations
- Lie on your side with your elbow at 90° and holding a small weight – starting with about .5kg can be a good start
- Then lift the weight, rotating with your shoulder as shown – making sure your elbow stays touching your side the entire time and then lower down
- Repeat for 3 sets of 10 and increase or decrease weight as needed to fatigue the muscle without pain
2. Overhead rotational press
- Always start with your knuckles forward and in front of your shoulder and then press up while rotating so that your knuckles are backwards
- Do 3 sets of 12, starting with a weight that is pain-free (such as a can of beans) and build up from there
3. Lawn mowers
- Start with your hand in front of your opposite pocket. Leading with your elbow, bring your arm across your body and up to the opposite corner as shown.
- Start with a weight that is pain-free such as .5kg and build up from there with, performing 3 sets of 12 with an aim of the shoulder being fatigued at the end.
4. One arm push-up
- Place your hand on the wall at chest/nipple height. Do a push-up to the wall, keeping back straight and shoulders level.
- Only go as far as you can control and adjust the distance of your feet from the wall so that it is challenging but not painful.
- Do 3 sets of 10
Tip: If the exercise is sore to do, try and use something lighter (or move closer to the wall for #4) and if you can’t do it without pain, don’t do that one for a couple of weeks – just start with the exercises that you can do. Remember rotator cuff rehab typically takes around 12 weeks on average so patience is key
Get into routine of doing the exercises 5 days a week, combined with other exercise such as walking or biking regularly