Rotator Cuff Rehab

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that form a “cuff” around the shoulder joint, connecting the upper arm to the shoulder blade. These muscles stabilize the shoulder while allowing flexibility and a wide range of motion. Because the rotator cuff consists of soft tissues, it is prone to injury from overuse and trauma.

Rotator cuff injuries are common, particularly among athletes. Repetitive, forceful actions can damage the rotator cuff and result in painful conditions like tendonitis, impingement and tears. These injuries can be extremely painful and take a long time to heal, but most problems can be successfully treated with rest, stretching and a variety of exercises.


The “RICE” method stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. This method should be used immediately following a rotator cuff injury and for the next 24 to 48 hours. Remember to keep ice wrapped in a towel or soft cloth; never apply ice directly to the skin. Ice can be applied for 15-20 minutes at a time with 15-20 minutes of rest in between.

Doorway stretch

Stand in a doorway and stretch out your arms, gripping the sides of the door frame with each hand. Keep your grip at or below shoulder height. Gently lean forward onto your toes until you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your shoulders. Hold stretch for up to 30 seconds at a time. Repeat as desired.

Dumbbell lying shoulder external rotation

Lie down on the side of your uninjured arm. Keep the upper part of your injured arm at your side and bend the elbow 90 degrees. Hold a light dumbbell with your injured arm and rotate from the elbow to slowly raise the dumbbell and lower it back to the floor. Stop the exercise and switch to lighter weight if you begin to feel strain in the shoulder.

Reverse fly

With feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent, gently bend forward at the waist and grip a light dumbbell in each hand. Raise arms out at the sides and squeeze shoulder blades together, making sure not to raise arms above shoulder height. Return to starting position and repeat.

High to low rows

Using a cable machine or resistance cable, grip handles firmly and extend arms forward to shoulder height. Pull elbows downward towards your body and squeeze shoulder blades together (Source: Healthline).

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