Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator Cuff Exercises

Always best to involve doctors and physical therapists in this stuff, but a few tips always help. Rotator cuff injuries and ailments can usually be treated with exercises and physical therapy, the docs tell me. AND, the most common rotator cuff problem – “overuse syndrome” – can not only be treated but prevented if the right kinds of exercise are done right.

Now there are some good Web sites that suggest rotator cuff exercises, including the “Rotator Cuff Exercises” page of; the Medline, National Institutes of Health page on rotator cuff exercises; and the WebMD rotator cuff exercises (Go to Page 4 of the “action set” and scroll down for specific exercises). Why, you can even get advice on “Anterior Deltoid Exercises for Patients with Massive Rotator Cuff Tears” at, and of course you can probably Web-surf up some other good examples, but again, a visit to a doc or physical therapist is always a baseline of advice

And then there’s  FrameWork for the Shoulder: A 6-Step Plan for Preventing Injury and Ending Pain, by Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon and best-selling author of the “Framework” series of books. It takes a comprehensive approach to having health shoulders, a whole upper-body prevention program, according to Dr. DiNubile. “Now the rage is to really work the scapular stabilizers for a healthy shoulder, the upper back,” he says. “It’s about how people create imbalances in the body, whether that be through a sport or workouts at the gym.”

“A lot of guys talk about the ‘mirror muscles,’” he says. “They tend to do more front-of-body work to get big biceps and pecs and shoulders, but the mid deltoids and rear cuff and scapular stabilizers are out of balance, and that’s how you get in trouble. The rotator cuff is a balancing act.”

“The same is true with overhead athletes, if they’re throwing over and over and not allowing recovery,” he says. “We now know the importance of recovery. It’s easy to overload the rear cuffs, which are decelerators. The rear cuffs are the reins that put the brakes on. They fatigue very easily, and once they do there’s a much higher risk of injuring the shoulder. Pitchers have to stop because their velocity is off, because they didn’t allow recovery.”

I sometimes feel the result of imbalanced exertion in my own bad shoulders, but I have noticed that after skiing – downhill or cross-country – and spending a day pushing back with those poles, my shoulders actually feel better!

“That’s because you’re using your shoulders and getting lots of blood flow, and there’s lubrication going on, and you’re using them out of the impingement arc, which is above the shoulder,” says Dr. DiNubile. “You’re using those muscles in a safe range, and that’s a big part of getting over shoulder issues: using them in a range where you’re not provoking the issues. Most cuffs, when you get to shoulder height or higher, you’re provoking it.”

It’s no good working in the “no-pain-no-gain” mode, say the savants. You want slow, steady progress, as long as it’s not too aggressive. Overdoing it causes more wear and tear problems.

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