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Rotator Cuff Exercises and Muscles of the Rotator Cuff

By Genesis Villanueva

JOI rotator cuff exercises

Image of shoulder anatomy.

Overview 

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that stabilize the shoulder and allow it to move. The rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. The two most common types of rotator cuff injuries are impingements and tears. A shoulder impingement occurs when the soft tissues of the rotator cuff become swollen and inflamed. A rotator cuff tear occurs when a rotator cuff muscle or tendon actually tears. The best way to prevent rotator cuff problems is to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and shoulder blade. A comprehensive evaluation by a trained physical therapist is beneficial in evaluating the shoulder for muscle imbalances, decreased range of motion, decreased strength and postural issues. Development of a patient-specific home exercise program for stretching and strengthening is the treatment of choice.

Rotator cuff strengthening exercises include the following:

Internal rotation 

  • Lie on a firm, flat surface on the side of your affected arm. Place a pillow or folded piece of cloth under your head to keep your spine straight.
  • Hold your injured arm against your side with your elbow bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Keep your elbow bent and against your body and slowly rotate your arm at the shoulder, raising the arm with or without weight to a vertical position .
  • Slowly lower the arm to the starting position.

External rotation 

  • Lie on your side on a firm, flat surface with your unaffected arm under you, cradling your head.
  • Hold your injured arm against your side with your elbow bent at 90 degree angle.
  • Keep your elbow against your side and slowly rotate your arm at the shoulder raising your arm with or without weight to a vertical position.
  • Slowly lower the arm to the starting position to a count of 5.

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