Physical Therapy Rotator Cuff Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Physical Therapy Rotator Cuff Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain is a nagging ailment that affects approximately 25% of adults. That happens because it is the most used joint in our bodies. Your shoulder joint consists of three major parts that work together to allow you to perform daily tasks like typing, driving, eating, running, walking, laundry, and more with ease. These joints include the humerus, scapula, and clavicle. Tendons, muscles, and ligaments hold these bones together and facilitate movement.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain or discomfort, read on to discover the best physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain.

✅Neck Release

Neck release is a simple physical therapy exercise that will help reduce tension in your neck and shoulders.

  1. Start by lowering your chin towards your chest to stretch the back of your neck
  2. In this position, tilt your head to the right to stretch the left shoulder and hold for one minute
  3. Now, tilt your head to the right to stretch the right shoulder and hold for one minute
  4. Stretch each side three to five times

If you feel you need a deeper stretch, you can place one hand on your shoulder and the hand above your ears to guide your movement.

✅Downward Dog Pose

The downward dog pose can help stretch and strengthen your shoulder muscles. It is also effective for strengthening your back.

  1. Place your hands and knees on the ground. Once you are comfortable, lift your hips towards the ceiling
  2. Remember to keep your knees slightly bent to prevent injury
  3. Maintain a straight spine as you pull your head towards your feet to flex your shoulder overhead
  4. Maintain the pose for about one minute

✅Shoulder Circles

Shoulder circles are an effective warm-up exercise for your shoulders. It can also enhance your flexibility.

  1. Stand behind a chair and place your left hand on that chair
  2. Loosen up and allow the right hand to hang down
  3. Once you are in position, rotate your right hand five times in both directions
  4. Do the same for your left hand
  5. It is best to do shoulder circles two to three times daily

✅Chest Expansion

Chest expansion is ideal for individuals who want to enhance shoulder flexibility and range of motion.

  1. Stand up, holding an exercise band, towel, or strap behind your back with both hands
  2. While in this position, expand your chest by moving the shoulder blades toward each other
  3. Remember to lift your chin towards the ceiling on each cycle
  4. Hold for around 30 seconds and repeat three to five times

✅Across the Chest Stretch

Across the chest, stretch is the perfect exercise for individuals who want to enhance flexibility in the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles.

  1. Start with the left arm across the chest and place it on the right elbow. You can also use your right hand to support the arm
  2. Maintain the position for one minute and do the same for your left arm
  3. Repeat the exercise 3 to 5 times

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

A man suffering from shoulder pain

Now that you know some of the best rotator cuff exercises to deal with shoulder pain, you are probably wondering why you experience shoulder pain occasionally. Shoulder pain occurs due to underlying medical conditions and overuse. Understanding the cause of your shoulder pain helps you determine the best exercises and treatment to deal with the problem. Let’s discuss some common causes of shoulder pain in detail below.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries are among the prevalent causes of shoulder pain and discomfort. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles together with their tendons. These muscles surround the shoulder joint and play an integral role in supporting and providing stability. They are also essential in facilitating various movements. However, repetitive motions and acute injuries can damage these muscles. Rotator cuff injuries usually manifest themselves through a limited range of motion and shoulder weakness. You may also feel a dull ache or sharp discomfort.


The bursa sac cautions the shoulder joint to prevent friction when you use the shoulder joint. Unfortunately, this sac can suffer inflammation due to repetitive motions or traumatic injuries. When it becomes inflamed, you will likely experience pain when using your shoulder joint.


The tendons in your shoulder joint connect the muscles to the bones. These thick cords can become inflamed, causing pain and discomfort. You may also experience limited mobility.


Other shoulder pain causes are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Arthritis is often characterized by joint inflammation, reduced mobility, and discomfort. Osteoarthritis usually occurs due to age.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder occurs due to shoulder joint inflammation. It can significantly reduce mobility in your shoulder joint and hinder your ability to perform daily tasks.

When to Seek Professional Help

A doctor checking the shoulder of the patient

While performing these rotator cuff exercises can help you manage shoulder pain, it’s vital to know the right time to consult a licensed healthcare provider or a doctor of physical therapy at La Clinica. Here is how to tell when to seek professional help.

Severe Pain

Although shoulder pain is common, seeking professional help is recommended if the pain significantly impacts your daily life. Shoulder pain occurs due to injuries or underlying medical conditions. For instance, sudden trauma such as dislocation or a fall can lead to immediate discomfort in the shoulder injury. A rotator cuff muscle or tendon tear can also cause sharp and intense pain during movements. Seek medical attention immediately if the pain occurs due to a severe fall or impact. Similarly, consult a healthcare professional if your pain is unbearable and does not respond to over-the-counter pain relievers.

Limited Range of Motion

Reduced range of motion can negatively impact your daily activities and quality of life. Reduced range of motion in the shoulders may occur due to lifestyle habits, medical conditions, or injuries. Arthritis, rotator cuff tears, and a frozen shoulder are other sources of decreased shoulder mobility.

Specific Symptoms

Although mild shoulder pain is often associated with common causes, some specific accompanying symptoms indicate a more severe condition. For instance, pain that radiates down the arm into the neck, accompanied by numbness, is a warning sign of a heart attack. See a doctor right away if the pain originates in the chest and moves to the shoulder and arm. Another warning sign is shortness of breath.

Shortness of breath accompanied by shoulder pain is a sign of a heart attack, especially if you have risk factors. Sudden weakness or loss of sensation might be a sign of a nerve-related issue. Swelling that occurs rapidly might indicate a dislocation or fracture. Moreover, fever or discharge around the shoulder joint might suggest an infection that requires immediate medical attention. Skin color changes around the shoulder may indicate impaired blood circulation.

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Managing Shoulder Pain

Physical therapy is perhaps the best treatment solution for managing shoulder pain. With physical therapy, you will enjoy individualized treatment and progress monitoring. Moreover, your doctor of physical therapy will teach you proper body mechanics, techniques, and postures to prevent further strain on your shoulders. It’s also the best treatment option to avoid surgical intervention. Discover why physical therapy is the best treatment for shoulder pain below: 

  • Improves mobility
  • Eliminates pain
  • Avoid prescription and surgery
  • Improves balance

Final Thoughts

Shoulder pain usually occurs due to sudden injuries and overuse injuries. Luckily, these exercises can help with shoulder pain and discomfort. Make sure to visit the best physical therapist in Chicago if you are experiencing shoulder pain due to an auto or work accident. Addressing the issue early on with a qualified physical therapist can help prevent serious problems. Here at La Clínica, we strive to help you get back to your regular activities as soon as possible.

Our doctors who do physical therapy use modern imaging and equipment to diagnose the full extent of your shoulder injury. They also use their deep knowledge of physical therapy and training to help you recover from the nagging shoulder pain and discomfort.