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rotator cuff exercises

Shoulder pain

Rotator Cuff Rehab: Strengthening exercises

June 13, 2017 • By

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%

Rotator cuff rehab physio

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

Rotator cuff rehab external rotationRotator cuff rehab external rotation

 

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

Overhead rotational pressOverhead rotational press

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.

Disco dancer shoulder rehab exerciseDisco dancer shoulder rehab exercise

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

One arm push-up shoulder exercise

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


Shoulder pain

Rotator Cuff Tear Exercises: Heal Strong and Fast

June 8, 2017 • By

A Rotator cuff tear is one of the most feared injuries but shouldn’t be. Here’s what you need to know about rotator cuff tears to get them stronger, faster.

Just how common are they?

A rotator cuff tear is present in over 20% of the population, but don’t let that number fool you because not 1 in 5 of us actually have painful rotator cuffs. This is because, just like you can and probably do have joint degeneration in your knee that gives you no pain at all, you can have rotator cuff tears that are pain-free (asymptomatic).

So the real number you should be interested in is the number of symptomatic tears; 35% of rotator cuff tears on radiology are symptomatic, which is still very common!(1)

Rotator cuff tearWhat is the rotator cuff?

Put simply, it is a group of muscles which come from the front, back and top of your shoulder-blade and wraps around that ball and socket of your shoulder. Their job is to coordinate between themselves to help keep the ball positioned nicely in the socket while you move your arm.

Rotator cuff tears often happen in the tendon, close to the shoulder joint.

Does a rotator cuff tear need surgery?

Really, it is case by case but most rotator cuff injuries do not need surgery.

As a good guideline, with all rotator cuff tears, it is best to trial 12 weeks of conservative rehab and if that has not much improved the injury, then you look at seeing the surgeon.

A recent study actually showed that there was no difference between surgery and active physiotherapy at 1-year follow-up(2)

Physio Rehab exercises for a rotator cuff tear needs to cover three things:

  • Regaining range of motion and muscle activation
  • Improving strength
  • Regaining full control and function

We are going to cover these stages in three posts and here is Stage 1, which starts after 3-4 days of rest, or more if needed:

Stage 1: Regaining range and muscle activation

1. Pendular circles

2. Regular movement

Using a broomstick or a pulley, this is a great active-assisted exercise for regaining movement and stopping the shoulder stiffening up.

Hold onto the end of the stick with your injured side and help lift it up with the other hand.

Repeat this 20 times 5 times per day without pushing into pain.

Active assisted shoulder flexion Active assisted shoulder flexion

 

isometric rotator cuff strengthening exercise3. Rotator cuff activation

These exercises activate the rotator cuff in a safe way by doing gentle wall pushes. It is essential to load the rotator cuff in a safe way and gently to encourage strong healing and minimizes scar tissue formation.

  1. External rotation
  2. Abduction

 

Read for Stage 2 rotator cuff rehab? Follow this link to the next post in the series.