Did you know that there are eleven muscles that surround the shoulder? There are also four muscle tendons (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis) that allow range of motion in your shoulder and stabilize the upper arm bone to the shoulder socket. Unfortunately, injuries can occur (cumulative or acute) when one or more of these muscle tendons are overstretched or overloaded. A cumulative injury is due to a repeated motion. Think of a pitcher who throws a baseball a thousand times over his career, a power lifter who presses enormous loads over head during every workout, a tennis player who practices serves for hours every day. An acute injury happens suddenly such as an accident. I remember a patient at a physical therapy clinic where I worked who damaged his rotator cuff as he was stepping up into his truck. He missed a step and reflexively grabbed the bar by the driver’s side door. He hung to the bar as his body fell backward and completely tore two of his rotator cuff muscles. In his case, surgery was necessary followed by intense rehabilitation. In others cases, where a tear is minor or less severe, rest, stretching, massage and proper rotator cuff exercises can speed up recovery. Even if you don’t have a shoulder issue, you can incorporate the three exercises below as preventative measures.

With your palm facing your body, keep left arm at your side with elbow bent to 90 degrees. Externally rotate the handle as far as it goes being sure to keep elbow against your side. Return to start position slowly. Exercise can also be performed with a stretch cord or dumbbell.

Grab handle with one hand and keep arm along the upper side of your body with elbow bent to 90 degrees. Internally rotate arm (like the forehand swing in tennis.) then let arm return to starting position. Exercise can also be performed with a stretch cord or dumbbell.

Hold your arm out to the side in the shape of an “L”, so that your upper arm is straight out to the side, and your lower arm (forearm) is pointed straight at the floor. Now rotate your arm so that your forearm is pointed straight at the ceiling and your upper arm is still straight out to the side. Let your hand return to start position through the same arc. Exercise can also be performed with a stretch cord or dumbbell.