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Shoulder Pain Exercises

Shoulder Pain Exercises

Shoulder pain can be debilitating and affect your ability to perform daily activities. Finding the right exercises to relieve shoulder pain when doing chest exercises is key to recovering mobility and function. Whether you’re dealing with general shoulder pain, rotator cuff injuries, arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, or even post-surgery, there are many effective exercise options to consider.

Certain exercises can actually exacerbate shoulder discomfort if not performed properly. Always check with your physical therapist to ensure you’re doing movements that are suitable for your specific injury and condition. 

Customized treatment plans lead to the best outcomes. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what exercises are good for shoulder pain.

General Shoulder Pain Relief Exercises

If you have general shoulder pain with no known injury, the following basic stretches and strengthening moves may provide relief by improving flexibility and stability:

  • Pendulum swings - Bend at the waist and let your affected arm hang down. Swing it gently forward/backward and side to side.
  • Shoulder rolls - Roll shoulders up, back, and down in a smooth motion. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Wall slide stretch - Stand with your back against the wall. Place forearms on the wall and slide arms upward while keeping elbows, wrists, and hands touching the wall. Hold for 10 seconds. 
  • Seated row - These shoulder blade pain exercises use exercise bands or pull-down machines at the gym. Pull the band/handles back to engage shoulder blades, hold, and slowly return to the start position.
  • Shoulder external rotation - Hold weight/band at chest height, keep elbows pinned at the side. Rotate the forearm outward, hold, and return.  

Seeking guidance from a physical therapist can ensure you perform appropriate exercises to do when you have shoulder pain. They may utilize manual therapy techniques in tandem with targeted strengthening.

Rotator Cuff Injury Exercises 

The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor) that stabilize the shoulder joint. Injuries like tendinitis or tears to these muscles cause pain and mobility issues. 

The following exercises for shoulder pain may be incorporated into a rehabilitation program:

  • Passive internal and external rotation - Lie on your back and keep your arm at a 90-degree angle. Gently swing across the body or out to the side. Assist motion with the other arm if needed.  
  • Active-assisted exercise - Use a cane, stick, golf club, or umbrella to assist with shoulder elevation by the injured side. Gradually reduce assistance.
  • Isometric cuff exercises - At low angles, push your palm against the wall without actual shoulder movement. Hold 5 seconds.
  • Horizontal shoulder extension - Lie on your stomach and prop up on your forearms. Raise the injured arm out to the side, thumb up, and hold for 5 seconds.
  • Elastic band external rotation - Tie resistance band handle above the elbow. Rotate the arm away from the body and slowly return.

As rotator cuff repairs heal, a physical therapist can guide the progression of mobility and strength training. Techniques like joint mobilization, soft tissue massage, and therapeutic exercise accelerate recovery.

Shoulder Bursitis and Tendonitis Exercises

Bursae, fluid-filled sacs facilitating smooth joint motions, can become inflamed and tender, causing conditions like bursitis. Tendonitis, swelling of tendons connecting muscles to bones, is another common shoulder problem. 

To alleviate these issues, exercises promoting muscle strength, joint stability, and improved posture are beneficial.

Crossover arm stretch involves laterally raising one arm and crossing it over the chest, gently pulling it closer with the opposite hand. I, Y, T, and W exercises use light weights or bands to create letter formations overhead, promoting muscle engagement. 

Wall slide into sleeper stretch enhances flexibility, and rowing machine exercises engage back muscles with low resistance. Wall push-ups improve shoulder strength and stability.

As shoulder bursitis and tendonitis improve, exercise intensity can be gradually increased under the guidance of a physical therapist. They may incorporate joint mobilizations and manual therapy techniques to enhance the rehabilitation process.

Arthritis Shoulder Exercises 

Arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, and post-traumatic forms, often causes painful inflammation and stiffness in the shoulder joint, limiting mobility. To alleviate discomfort, low-impact exercises that enhance strength and flexibility are crucial. 

Exercises such as shoulder flexion, wall walking, elastic band internal rotation, behind-the-back reach, and assisted shoulder abduction can effectively improve the range of motion and reduce arthritis-related discomfort.

For those with severe arthritis, supervised aquatic therapy offers gentle shoulder exercises for pain, complementing customized land-based programs to enhance flexibility and function progressively. 

Incorporating these exercises for left shoulder pain into a routine can significantly contribute to managing arthritis symptoms and maintaining shoulder health.

Post-Surgery Shoulder Exercises  

Rehabilitation following shoulder surgery, such as rotator cuff repair or shoulder replacement, focuses on restoring mobility and preventing complications like stiffness, weakness, or poor healing. During the initial stages, aerobic activity is restricted to facilitate appropriate tissue healing. The primary emphasis is on specific techniques:

The physical therapist begins with Passive Range of Motion (PROM), manually guiding the arm through internal and external rotation, flexion and extension, and abduction and adduction, adhering to the surgeon's guidelines. This stage is crucial for initiating movement without putting undue stress on the healing tissues.

Active-Assisted Range of Motion (AAROM) follows, where the patient uses the opposite arm to guide the affected arm through basic motions. This approach ensures controlled movement without overstressing the healing tissues.

Submaximal Isometrics involve applying gentle muscle tension without joint movement, such as pushing the palm against a wall. This might cause shoulder joint pain when doing pushing exercises. This technique aids in maintaining muscle tone and promoting healing.

The rehabilitation program incorporates shoulder strengthening and stability exercises as the healing progresses. Examples include Elastic Band External Rotation, Seated Dumbbell Press, Prone Horizontal Abduction (T exercise), and Wall Slide into Sleeper Stretch. These exercises target specific muscle groups to enhance strength and stability.

The physical therapist continually tailors the rehabilitation plan based on the individual's progress after surgery. The goal is to achieve an excellent range of motion and strength, as this provides the best potential for a lasting recovery. 

For those seeking personalized shoulder therapy in Aurora, IL, contacting Physical Therapy Advantage is recommended. Their experienced team can provide tailored guidance to ensure a comprehensive and effective recovery journey.

When to See a Physical Therapist 

If you have persistent shoulder pain that is not improving with rest and basic home exercises, make an appointment with a physical therapist. 

They perform an extensive evaluation to pinpoint the underlying cause, whether injury-related or due to mechanical dysfunction. Customized shoulder pain relief exercises are more effective than generic exercise alone.

Benefits provided by one-on-one physical therapy in Aurora IL, and what exercises help shoulder pain include:

  • Hands-on joint and soft tissue mobilization techniques to relieve pain and improve mobility
  • Targeted strengthening regimens for shoulder muscles supporting the rotator cuff and scapula
  • Stretching tight structures that contribute to poor posture and shoulder dysfunction 
  • Modalities like heat, ice and electrical stimulation to relieve discomfort
  • Patient education on proper exercise mechanics, posture, joint protection, and home program compliance
  • Periodic treatment adjustments based on your clinical presentation and progression

Seeking help as soon as feasible after the onset of shoulder pain leads to better outcomes. Chronic conditions can still greatly improve with customized physical therapy exercises for shoulder pain programs.

Best Exercises for Common Shoulder Problems

Managing shoulder conditions requires a tailored approach for optimal recovery. The following are the best exercises for shoulder pain :

Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen Shoulder)

For frozen shoulders, therapists perform passive range of motion and end-range mobilizations. Patients contribute through active-assisted forward flexion, abduction motions, posterior capsule stretching, and joint mobilizations.

Dislocated Shoulder

Initial PRICE therapy transitions to passive range of motion exercises after 2-3 weeks, progressing to active range of motion after 6 weeks. Isometrics gradually increase strength, followed by shoulder stabilization exercises.

Scapulothoracic Dysfunction

Addressing dysfunction involves scapular-focused stretches, self-massage, wall slides, and corner stretches. Strengthening scapular stabilizers, cervical and thoracic spine mobilization, and posture retraining are integral.

Shoulder Bursitis

Managing bursitis includes PRICE principles, gentle pendulum exercises, passive range of motion stretching, cross-frictional massage, and flexibility exercises. Trunk and scapular stability exercises aid recovery. You can also try left shoulder pain exercises.

Superior Labrum Tears

Early ice application, moist heat packs, passive and active-assisted range of motion exercises, external rotation, internal rotation stretches, and scapular stabilization are recommended.

Seeking professional guidance in physiotherapy shoulder pain exercises is crucial for optimal recovery, ensuring an efficient path with expert advice on exercise selection, technique, and progression.

Exercises to Avoid with Shoulder Pain

You might also be wondering what exercises to avoid with shoulder pain, right? The exercises to avoid with shoulder pain include stressful overhead motions that impinge rotator cuff tendons, like military press and wide grip upright rows. 

Also, refrain from excessive stretching like behind-the-back movements or sudden, “jerky” motions during arm routines. 

These activities can worsen inflammation and cause further strain. Instead, focus on a gentle range of motion and gradual strengthening approved by your physical therapist.

Home Exercise Program for Shoulder Pain Relief  

For optimal shoulder health, initial exercises should be guided by a physician or physical therapist. 

A structured home program offers flexibility, promoting gains in mobility, strength, and stability between supervised therapy visits. It maintains progress, minimizes re-injury risk, and alleviates discomfort. 

A comprehensive regimen includes flexibility, strengthening, stability, and cardiovascular exercises. Video recording helps therapists assess techniques for program adjustments. 

Consistent daily shoulder pain exercises at home, tailored to clinical findings, lead to faster resolution of shoulder pain and a return to normal activities.


If you experience shoulder intense pain when reaching back exercises, you should contact a back pain physical therapist. Do not allow shoulder pain to progress to a chronic state, impacting your work capacity and recreational activities. Take advantage of proven conservative physical therapy interventions before considering injections or surgery. This optimizes positive outcomes in a non-invasive manner.

Contact Physical Therapy Advantage in Aurora today to schedule your thorough shoulder assessment. Allow their clinical experts to customize the ideal shoulder program that fits your lifestyle and puts you back on the path toward recovery.

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