Physical Therapy for Shoulder Impingement & Tendonitis
The rotator cuff consists of four muscles and tendons that cover the head of the humerus and attach it to the shoulder blade, or scapula. They provide stability and strength during rotational movements in the arm. Shoulder impingement refers to mechanical compression or inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons. This occurs when the space in the shoulder joints narrows and the rotator cuff tendons or bursa, lubricating sacs located over the rotator cuff, become compressed, irritated or damaged, resulting in pain, inflammation and reduced mobility. Exercises that target the rotator cuff will strengthen the surrounding muscles and tendons, improve circulation to the joint, flexibility and range of motion.
Stand with your back against a wall, ensuring that your torso and shoulders remain straight. Bend your right elbow to form a 90-degree angle and bring your arm across r youabdomen, remembering to keep your thumb upright and flattening your palm against your stomach. Perform an external rotation by moving your arm and forearm away from the abdomen, remembering to keep your elbow bent. Continue this external rotation until the back of your arm is flat against the wall. Hold this position for five seconds and rotate your arm back to the starting position. Perform one set of 10 repetitions on both arms, once daily.
You will need two dumbbells to perform this exercise. Standing upright, holding a dumbbell in each hand with thumbs pointing down. While keeping your elbows straight, slowly bring your arms outward to form a 45-degree angle. Hold this position for five seconds and slowly return to the starting position. Perform three sets of 20 repetitions, once daily to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the rotator cuff, thus stabilizing the shoulders and restoring mobility.
Stand upright and bend your right elbow to form a 90-degree angle. Raise your right hand so that your forearm forms a 90-degree with your shoulder and place your opposite hand over your elbow. Using your left hand, grab the opposite elbow and gently pull that arm down behind your head. Continue this gentle pull until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Hold this stretch for five seconds and relax. Perform one set of 10 repetitions on both arms, two to three times daily to stretch the tendons and joints in the shoulder and help restore your range of motion.
Lie on your back and bend both knees. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and extend your arms away from your body, with palms up. While maintaining contact between the ground and your lower back, begin squeezing your shoulder blades together, downward and toward your spine. While performing this exercise, try to not shrug your shoulders and remember to relax your neck. As your perform this exercise, the lower muscles between your scapula should be contracting. Hold each shoulder blade squeeze for five seconds and relax. Perform one set of 20 repetitions three times a day to strengthen the muscles in the shoulders and prevent further injury.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Shoulder Impingement/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis; February 2011
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation; Shoulder Impingement (Bursitis, Tendonitis)
- UpToDate; Patient information: Shoulder Impingement Syndrome; Bruce C Anderson, MD; September 2010
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Rotator cuff tears. Updated March 2017.
- Physiopedia. Rotator cuff.
- Mihata T, Morikura R, Hasegawa A, et al. Partial-thickness rotator cuff tear by itself does not cause shoulder pain or muscle weakness in baseball players. Am J Sports Med. 2019:47(14):3476-3482. doi:10.1177/0363546519878141
- Harvard Health Publishing. What to do about rotator cuff tendinitis. Updated May 19, 2019.
Jessica Wellons has been writing professionally since 2007. She is a scientific writer and fervent health enthusiast writing for The American College of Preventative Medicine and Writing Assistance Inc. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical medicine from the University of North Carolina and has a Master of Science in clinical pathology from the University of North Carolina.