Strengthen the Shoulder Rotators
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
There are 4 muscles that form a strong cuff around the shoulder that helps to hold the ball (head of the humerus bone) of the shoulder joint in the socket (glenoid fossa) of the shoulder blade (scapula). These muscles make up the “rotator cuff.” As our shoulders age, the rotator cuff muscles can become weak; their tendons can become frayed, and bony changes can occur. These changes can cause shoulder pain and loss of motion, leading to loss of function. If you have shoulder pain which is causing range of motion to decrease, it is important to see your doctor. It is much easier to keep the shoulder flexible that it is to regain lost shoulder motion.
When properly functioning, the rotator cuff muscles not only rotate the shoulder in its socket; they also cause a gliding motion. For example, when the arm is raised overhead, the muscles, working as a team, glide the ball of the shoulder joint downward. If these muscles are not working in balance with one another, the gliding motion is impaired, resulting in possible pinching of some of the tissues and limited, painful movement.
The rotator cuff muscles may be strengthened with an exercise band. You may try the following exercises if you do not have shoulder pain with the exercise. If you do have pain, consult your physician or physical therapist.
To strengthen the external rotators:
• Sit or stand with good posture. With the arms at the sides, bend your elbows to 90% with palms facing up. Lay the band across your palms. Grasp the band and slowly move your hands as far apart as possible, then slowly return to the starting position. Keep your elbows touching your sides and your forearms parallel to the floor throughout the exercise. Strengthen for 2 sets of 5 repetitions. Gradually work up to 2 sets of 10 repetitions. As you become stronger, you may place more tension on the band as you begin the exercise. Roll the shoulders up, back, and down several times and relax.
To strengthen the internal rotators:
• Tie one end of the exercise band securely around a door knob. Close the door. Make sure that someone else will not open the door while you are exercising. Stand with your side toward the door. The elbow is bent to 90, and kept at your side and parallel to the floor throughout the exercise. Grasp the free end of the exercise band and slowly pull, bringing your forearm toward your stomach. Slowly relax. Strengthen for 2 sets of 5 repetitions. Gradually work up to 2 sets of 10 repetitions. As you become stronger, you may place more tension on the band as you begin the exercise. Roll the shoulders up, back, and down several times and relax.
General precautions for using the exercise band:
1. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor if using the exercise band is appropriate for you.
2. If you have severe arthritis in your shoulders, wrists, or fingers, you may need to use a band with less resistance, wrap the band around the palm and back of your hand, or exercising without a band may not be appropriate for you.
3. While using the band, keep your wrists straight.
4. Breathe normally throughout the exercise. You may have a tendency to hold your breath which will increase pressure around your heart.