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Rotator Cuff Exercises to Help Prevent and Treat a Tear

Rotator Cuff Exercises to Help Prevent and Treat a Tear

Building and maintaining shoulder strength are key proponents in overcoming rotator cuff tears. Under the supervision and guidance of an orthopedist or physical therapist, certain rehabilitative shoulder exercises can even be used to avoid rotator cuff tears. The following rotator cuff exercises are designed to help patients do both.  

Exercises to Strengthen the Rotator Cuff

Although a rotator cuff tear may be the result of a traumatic incident such as a fall, it may also be the result of overuse. Fortunately, there are a series of exercises that may help to protect the shoulder and prevent such injuries over time, including: 

  1. Weighted pendulum

    Using a chair for support with one arm, pick up a weight with the other arm, lean towards the chair with the weighted arm hanging below, and gently swing the body in a circular motion while allowing the weighted arm and shoulder to follow. Or, step the foot opposite of the weighted arm ahead and swing the body forward and backward while allowing the weighted arm and shoulder to follow. Switch directions and shoulders as needed. 

  2. Weighted rotations

    Lying in a side-sleeper position on the ground, tuck the arm on the floor so that the elbow is close to the body and the forearm creates a 90-degree angle. Place a weight in the grounded hand, face the palm up, and slowly lift and lower the weight to and from the body to perform a weighted internal rotation. Swap the weight into the other hand and lower and lift the weight to and from the body to perform a weighted external rotation. Roll to the opposite side and repeat both exercises. 

  3. Seated rows

    Sit on the ground, tuck the knees slightly toward the chest, and plant both feet flat on the ground. Then, lifting the toes and keeping both heels on the ground, place a resistance band on the underside of the feet and pull it slightly taught while sitting up straight. Keeping the elbows at the sides, squeeze both shoulders and pull the resistance band back. Then, return the elbows to meet the sides and repeat. 

Exercises to Heal a Rotator Cuff Tear 

Along with rest, NSAIDs, and cold temperatures, physical therapy is often used as a treatment method for rotator cuff tears. In fact, many of the exercises used to strengthen the shoulder area and prevent injuries are also used to heal them. To modify the exercises mentioned above for your recovery plan, a physical therapist will likely omit the use of weights.  

Get Your Strength Back (and Keep It) 

Many essential daily activities are made nearly impossible with a rotator cuff injury. Before undertaking any physical therapy routine — preventative or restorative — consult the sports medicine specialists and orthopedists at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine. Our rehabilitation team of physical therapist, occupational therapists, and athletic trainers are trained in a full spectrum of orthopaedic-related conditions. To schedule an appointment, fill out our online request form or contact the office by calling 904-825-0540.


Dr. Volk, expert in ArthroscopyAlbert Volk, MD 
Board certifications in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. Dr. Volk specializes in an all-arthroscopic rotator cuff repair of the shoulder.