Beating Shoulder Pain with the Rotator Cuff Muscles

Beating Shoulder Pain with the Rotator Cuff Muscles

Shoulder pain comes in many different diagnoses: biceps tendonitis, arthritis, shoulder bursitis, shoulder impingement, scapular dyskinesis etc.  These diagnoses have one thing in common, which is that the rotator cuff muscles are not activating as they should.

The rotator cuff includes four muscles:  supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. These muscles function together to depress the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) as the arm moves overhead.  If the rotator cuff muscles are not able to do their job, the head of the humerus jams into the upper boney portion of the shoulder joint - compressing tendons and/or bursas, causing inflammation and pain at the shoulder. 

The rotator cuff muscles' action is to externally rotate the humerus (supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor) or to internally rotate the humerus (subscapularis).  Often in physical therapy, externally rotating the bent arm, at the waistline of the client is prescribed to improve the strength of the rotator cuff.  To make this exercise more difficult, try externally rotating the humerus at 90 degrees of shoulder abduction (arm lifted and maintained at shoulder height away from the torso).  The focus of the exercise should be on spinning the humerus posteriorly (backwards) in the the shoulder socket without tensing the neck muscles.

The picture below demonstrates the exercise being performed at 90 degrees of abduction with the Hooked on Pilates HANDIBANDS.  Performing the exercise in this fashion requires the client to stabilize the humerus as the movement occurs. Often shoulder pain occurs with movements away from the body.  Thus, stability of the arm needs to be gained away from the body.  However,  mastery of external rotation of the humerus in the lower position (elbow at waistline) needs to occur first before this more advanced variation is attempted.

Please note, this exercise can be done with any resistance band.  The HANDIBAND has a handle so it makes gripping the resistance band easier and the foot loop makes it easier to maintain the band on floor.

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