Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Impingement


The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons describes a shoulder impingement as a medical condition that results from one or more of the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder becoming inflamed because of external trauma or overuse. Patients with a shoulder impingement will often be prescribed to a physical therapy treatment plan, depending on severity of the condition. By following a few simple exercises at home, you can help heal a shoulder impingement in addition to regular treatment. Before starting any exercise, be sure to speak to your doctor for more information.

Isometric Exercises

According to rheumatologist Nathan Wei, isometric exercises incorporating the shoulder joint can help treat an impingement. As Dr. Wei states, isometric exercises describe the action of tensing the muscles surrounding a joint while focusing on not moving the limb in any way. This type of exercise is helpful for a shoulder impingement because pain or discomfort can result when moving the shoulder at the joint. These types of exercises allow the muscles to stay fit, but they do not stress the soft tissues like other types of exercises that require movement. An example of an isometric exercise for the shoulder includes squeezing a tennis ball in your hand while flexing your upper arm muscles.

Adding Resistance

Adding weight or resistance to shoulder impingement exercises should only come later in treatment when pain levels have lowered and surrounding muscles have gotten stronger. According the Dr. Wei, an example of a resistance exercise that benefits the shoulder involves using a pulley system. While seated in front of a pulley, slowly raise the affected arm on the impinged shoulder by holding on to one end of a pulley and pulling the opposite end with your other arm. This movement will allow the shoulder to rise with assistance from your healthy arm while gravity serves as resistance to the affected limb. Slowly lower the injured arm back to neutral position after a brief hold.

Shoulder Shrugs

Another simple exercise that you can complete at home, work or anywhere is a shoulder shrug. While seated or in standing position, keep your arms straight and at the sides of your body to start. Slowly shrug your shoulders by using the muscles in your neck and back to raise each limb toward your ears. Hold this flex for five seconds before slowly releasing the hold and returning to your starting position. Repeating this exercise numerous times in a day can help build strength in the muscles responsible for stabilizing your shoulders.