Your shoulder is quite literally made to move. In fact, your shoulders have the most motion of any other joint in your body. That’s why when they become injured it can be especially difficult to live with. It’s this mobility that opens it up to a host of injuries, conditions, and ailments. When you suffer an injury to your shoulder, the joint can become stiff and weak. Over time, with less motion and use, it can stiffen even more. This is why exercise is extremely important when combating shoulder pain. But, which exercise for shoulder pain is best?
Below, we’ll take a look at which exercises for shoulder pain make sense, which don’t, and how you can do them from the comfort of you’re own home. However, it’s important to understand that not all shoulder pain is the same, and as a result, neither are the exercises for them. That’s why deciding which exercise for shoulder pain is right for you, it’s important to know what is causing your pain.
Which Exercise for Shoulder Pain Is Best For You Depends On What Is Causing Your Pain
When determining which exercise for shoulder pain is best for you, it is important to first understand what is causing your pain in the first place. This is important for several reasons.
First, certain exercises that may work for one condition or ailment may aggravate or make another condition worse. For example, if you have a tear or injury to any of the major shoulder muscles, such as the deltoid or trapezius, exercises that are more gentle and use little or no resistance or weight will be most beneficial. However, for conditions like arthritis or bursitis, you may benefit more from exercises that use more moderate stretching, or that use weights or resistance bands.
Below are three of the most common causes of shoulder pain. Understanding what is causing your discomfort can help you determine which exercise for shoulder pain is best for you. First, let’s take a look at what arthritis of the shoulder is, and what causes it.
Which Exercise for Shoulder Pain Is Best?
If you’re new to exercise, or if you are recovering from an injury, it’s always important to talk with your doctor or physical therapist before starting. They can help you make sure the exercises you’re thinking about are safe and can help you gain mobility and strength in your shoulder without causing inflammation or joint pain. If you’ve had surgery on your shoulder, make sure you consult with your doctor on which exercises for shoulder pain are safe for you.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to go over which exercise for shoulder pain is best. As previously mentioned, which exercise for shoulder pain is right for you depends on what the cause of your shoulder pain is. Below, we’ll use the same three examples of shoulder pain used above to cover which exercises are best for each condition. Let’s first start with arthritis of the shoulder.
Which Exercise for Shoulder Pain Is Best for Arthritis of the Shoulder?
Simply defined, arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. Each year, millions of people around the world are affected by arthritis, with as many as one in three people over the age of 60 reporting some level of arthritis of the shoulder.
When arthritis affects the shoulders, the inflammation causes pain and stiffness that can make it difficult to lift your arm, brush your hair, or reach objects high above your head. Since arthritis of the shoulder causes inflammation and joint discomfort, the best exercises to help relieve this discomfort are aimed at building strength and mobility, while also avoiding further inflammation.
For shoulder arthritis, try these exercises:
This exercise strengthens the outer shoulder and rotator cuff muscles. To do this exercise:
Stand next to a table, counter, or desk.
- Lean forward, and place one hand on the table for support. Let your other hand hang freely at your side.
- Gently swing your arm forward and back, side to side, and in a circular motion, like a pendulum, 10 times each.
- Repeat these steps with your other arm.
- Do this two to three times for each arm.
Crossover Arm Stretch
This exercise stretches the back of your shoulders. To do this:
- Stand straight, with your shoulders relaxed.
- Take one arm, and gently pull it across your chest as far as you can comfortably.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat with the other arm.
- Do this two to three times for each arm.
This exercise can help improve your range of motion and strengthen your shoulder muscles. To do this:
- Stand in front of a wall at about an arms’ reach away from you.
- Using the affected arm or arms, slowly crawl your fingers up the wall as high as you can go.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then crawl back down.
- Do this two to three times, trying to reach higher every time.
Which Exercise for Shoulder Pain Is Best for Bursitis?
Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a closed, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion and gliding surface between the tissues of the body. Typically, bursitis affects the major bursae (plural for bursa), which are found next to the tendons near your large joints, such as the elbows, hips, knees, and shoulders.
The bursa located in the shoulder lies directly above the shoulder joint. When excess fluid builds up in this bursa, it can interfere with the shoulder joint, and cause issues with mobility. Similar to arthritis of the shoulder, exercises for shoulder bursitis are aimed at increasing mobility and limiting inflammation.
For bursitis, try these three exercises.
This stretch is great for opening up your shoulder muscles and can help relieve tension. To do this exercise:
- Standing at an arms’ length away, grab onto a solid surface with both hands. This can be a countertop, a table, or the back of a chair.
- Bend your knees slightly, and bend forward keeping your arms straight. Lower your upper body, and allow your shoulders to open up and stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then stand up and relax. Repeat this two to four times.
Shoulder flexion is important for improving the range of motion in your shoulders. For this exercise, you’ll need a solid object such as a broom handle or PVC pipe a little shorter than your wingspan. To work on this:
- Lying on your back, hold the object with both hands, keeping them about shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be face down as you hold the object.
- Keeping your elbows straight, gently raise your arms up and over your head. Do this until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Try to touch the back of your hands to the floor behind your head.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat two to four times.
For this exercise, you’ll need a piece of elastic material, preferably a resistance band. To do this exercise:
- First, put the band around a solid object such as a column or bedpost. Keep the band around waist height.
- With your elbows at your sides and bent at a 90-degree angle, pull the band back towards you. You should be able to feel your shoulder blades moving toward each other. Once you’ve felt a good stretch, move your arms back to their starting position.
- Repeat this eight to twelve times.
Which Exercise for Shoulder Pain Is Best for Overuse or Injury to Nearby Tendons?
Depending on what surrounding muscles are affected, which exercise for shoulder pain is right for you will look different. That said, one of the most common causes of shoulder pain that are caused by surrounding muscles is an injury to the bicep muscle.
Your biceps are located in your upper arm, and have two major tendons that attach them to your shoulder socket: the “short head” and “long head.” Pain in the front of the shoulder and weakness in the shoulder are both common signs that one of these tendons has become injured.
If this is the cause of your shoulder pain, you’ll likely need to focus on exercises that focus on rehabilitating your biceps. This means keeping the load on your bicep tendons low and working on building strength and mobility in the upper arms.
For exercises that can help with this, try the following:
Stretching your biceps can help keep them from tightening and making tendonitis feel worse. To do this:
- Stand about six inches away from a wall, and hold your injured arm or arms out horizontally just below shoulder height.
- Place your thumb against the wall, keeping your palm facing down.
- Gently turn away from the wall in the opposite direction, turning until you feel a stretch in your bicep.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this exercise three to five times a day.
Vertical Shoulder Flexion
This exercise helps you maintain your vertical range of motion while your tendon heals. To do this:
- Stand upright with your injured arm or arms at your side.
- Gently and slowly raise your arm in front of your body until it is vertical over your head.
- Ensure that you keep your elbow straight throughout this movement.
- Hold for 15 seconds, then lower it back to your side.
- Repeat this ten times per arm.
Sometimes referred to as corkscrews, this exercise helps keep your arms flexible and helps your tendons glide smoothly along the bicep muscle. To do this:
- Let your injured arm or arms hang at your sides, then bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle.
- Turn your palm so it faces upward, and hold the position for five seconds.
- Rotate your palm so it faces downward, and hold this position for another five seconds.
- Repeat this ten times per arm, and aim to do this three times per day.
When determining which exercise for shoulder pain is best for you, it’s important to understand what is causing your pain, what symptoms you have, and what you ultimately feel is best for you. If you have any concerns, always talk with your doctor before making any changes to your daily exercise routine.
Which Exercise for Shoulder Pain Do You Prefer?
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