5 Stretches and Exercises for Rotator Cuff Tears

By Amy Haddad


“If you’ve had a rotator cuff tear, physical therapy will be important to help you regain shoulder strength and range of motion.

Rotator cuff injuries are typically caused by trauma, tissue degeneration, or shoulder impingement.

Here are examples of several typical exercises and stretches you may encounter on your road to recovery.

1. Pendulum swing

  • Stand to the side of a table, steady chair, or railing and place the hand of your uninjured arm on the object for stability.
  • Gently lean forward without rounding the back and allow the affected arm to dangle freely. Then, lightly move this arm forward and back.
  • Starting in the same position, move your arm in and out (side-to-side).
  • Starting in the same position, move your arm in small circles. Start in a clockwise motion, then reverse and do it counterclockwise.
  • Repeat the exercise with the other arm.

2. Crossover arm stretch

  • Stand up straight and relax your shoulders. Take a few deep breaths if you need to relax.
  • Stretch the affected arm across your chest, but below your chin; reach as far as possible.
  • The healthy arm helps by holding the elbow area of the affected arm.
  • When performing this exercise, you should feel a stretch—not pain.
  • Repeat the exercise with the other arm.

3. Standing row

  • This exercise involves a stretch band, tied at the ends to make a three-foot loop.
  • Attach one end of the loop to a steady object like a doorknob and face it.
  • Hold the other end in one hand, and stand far back enough so there is little or no slack in the band.
  • With your arm bent at the elbow at a 90-degree angle and close to your body, pull the elbow back.
  • Repeat the exercise with the other arm.

4. Internal rotation

  • Like a standing row, this exercise involves a stretch band tied at the ends to make a three-foot loop.
  • Attach one end of the loop to a steady object like a doorknob; stand to the side and hold the band in the hand of your affected arm.
  • Bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle and keep it close to your body. Then, bring the forearm over the midsection of the body.
  • Repeat the exercise with the other arm.

5. Posterior stretch

  • Stand up and relax the shoulders.
  • The hand of the uninjured arm holds the elbow region of the injured one.
  • The hand of the injured arm crosses the body and rests on the opposite shoulder.
  • The hand of the uninjured arm lightly pushes the affected arm up and over the body, eliciting a stretch.
  • Repeat the exercise with the other arm.

Your physician or physical therapist will typically specify the types of exercises and number of repetitions to fit your needs and goals. He or she will also instruct you in the correct exercise technique, as well as pain management approaches. For example, icing immediately after stretching helps calm inflammation; your health care provider can show you how best to apply ice or a cold pack.

As with any exercise program, work with closely with your doctor and/or physical therapist to make sure you’re doing the correct exercises with the right form. You want to ensure you are performing the recommended stretches and exercises correctly; adjustments may be needed if you feel pain. As a general rule, exercising should not be overly painful. If you experience pain stop and consult with your health care provider before continuing.

The rotator cuff has an important role: securing your upper arm bone (humerus) and enabling shoulder movement. Following your prescribed physical therapy program can help restore your shoulder to normal function after a tear, and get you back to the activities you enjoy!”

The full article can be found here:


How can massage help with a rotator cuff injury?

“The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, keeping the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder.

A rotator cuff injury can cause a dull ache either in the front or back of the shoulder, which often worsens when you try to sleep on the involved side or try to use it under load.

Rotator cuff injuries occur most often in people who repeatedly perform overhead motions in their jobs or sports. Examples include painters, carpenters, and people who play baseball or tennis. However, it’s also very common for people who are inactive to obtain a rotator cuff injury through reaching for things at an unusual angle, such as reaching into the back seat of a car for a bag.

The risk of rotator cuff injury also increases with age. Injuries can also occur due your sleep position – again, particularly as we age.

Many people recover from rotator cuff injury with physical therapy exercises that improve flexibility and strength of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

The pain associated with a rotator cuff injury may:

  • Be described as a dull ache deep in the shoulder (with or without movement) – or a sharp pain with movement

  • Disturb sleep, particularly if you lie on the affected shoulder

  • Make it difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back

  • Be accompanied by arm weakness

If you are at risk of rotator cuff injuries or if you’ve had a rotator cuff injury in the past, daily shoulder stretches and strengthening exercises can help prevent future injury.

Most people exercise the front muscles of the chest, shoulder and upper arm, but it is equally important to strengthen the muscles in the back of the shoulder and around the shoulder blade to optimise shoulder muscle balance. A specialised remedial massage therapist with training in sports/rehab exercises can create a treatment program for you.

Targeted massage and mobilisation helps in increasing blood flow along with preventing scar tissue formation. This in turn promotes healing and re-establishes the normal function of rotator cuff.

During the initial stage of a rotator cuff injury, remedial massage is at its most effective along with treatment for inflammation as prescribed by a GP or rehab physiotherapist.”

This article was written on February 19, 2019 and is published on the Fitlife Sports Massage website. I am not aware of who the author is as they were not listed on the website. The original article can be found here:  https://www.fitlifesportsmassageperth.com.au/single-post/How-can-massage-help-with-a-rotator-cuff-injury