From catching a baseball to reaching for that cereal box on the highest shelf in the grocery store, our shoulders do a lot more than what we give them credit for. It’s often only when an injury strikes that we realize how much we take them for granted.
Damage to the rotator cuff or other parts of the shoulder can be debilitating and lead to a reduced quality of life or impaired functional capabilities. It doesn’t always have to be that way though.
Aside from surgery, many other non-surgical treatments and self-care techniques can help with shoulder recovery. Let’s look at targeted exercises (with examples!) for shoulder recovery, and other techniques to stop the pain in its tracks.
The Anatomy Of The Rotator Cuff
The rotator cuff comprises four muscles and their tendons, all of which provide strength and stability during motion to the shoulder. The four muscles include:
- Supraspinatus. This controls the lifting of the arm and the internal rotation.
- Infraspinatus. This enables the external rotation of your arm within the socket.
- Teres minor. As the name suggests, teres minor is a much smaller muscle that contributes to the ability to rotate.
- Subscapularis. When you hold your arm out straight and away from your body, the subscapular is working to maintain this abduction.
These muscles contribute to flexion, abduction, internal rotation, and external rotation. As a group, they stabilize the shoulder joint and perfect the movements of the humerus within the glenoid fossa.
When you’re experiencing difficulty lifting or rotating your arm, this could signal damage to the rotator cuff. Without the correct treatment and not allowing time for this area to heal, you could cause more damage and difficulties.
If damage has been caused, you may have a rotator cuff tear, tendinopathy, tendinitis, or bursitis.
The Importance Of Targeted Exercises In Recovery
Whether you’re on the road to shoulder recovery after surgery or you’ve noticed some first signs of discomfort, targeted exercises can have a therapeutic effect on the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.
Exercising and stretching can improve the shoulder joint’s range of motion and eventually increase flexibility and reduce stiffness.
Another benefit is the strengthening of the muscles. When the shoulder joint has been weakened due to trauma or injury, targeted exercises can help rebuild the strength in this area. Regaining this is essential for restoring stability and function in the shoulder.
7 Targeted Exercises
This muscle in the rotator cuff is the most commonly injured and torn because it covers the whole top of the humerus and faces the most force when lifting the arm. The following exercises focus on the supraspinatus:
Equipment: No equipment is needed.
1. Starting on your hands and knees, in 4-point kneeling, maintain a good neutral posture and equal weight stabilization.
2. Lean forward, backward, and side to side. This will switch the weight balance until you return to the middle and regain this neutral position. If comfortable, you can lift one arm at a time.
3. Repeat these repetitions several times and for a repeat of 3 sets.
Equipment: A table is needed or something to support your body.
1. Place your hand, the one from your unaffected shoulder, on the table. Stand beside the table with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
2. Bend your hips to 75 or 90 degrees and let your affected shoulder and arm hang down.
3. Put your weight on either side, while letting your arm swing freely from side to side.
4. Shift your body weight backward and forward, letting your arm swing in front of you and behind.
5. Once you’re able, move your body so your arm swings in a circle. This circle should be less than 8 inches. Repeat this up to five times.
Passive Internal Rotation
Equipment: No equipment is needed, but you may prefer having a friend help you. This exercise can either be done sitting or standing.
1. Bend one arm and position this to the side of you, lateral to your body, and your wrist should face the front.
2. Then, a helpful friend should gently push your wrist down/back until tightness is felt. Or you can do this step by yourself if you feel able. Repeat as many times as needed. The wrist should be able to travel below the transverse plane of the shoulder.
The subscapularis is located right at the front of the shoulder blade, with the main aim of this area being to allow you to rotate the arm internally. It stabilizes the shoulder during arm extensions too.
Prone Horizontal Abduction
Equipment: You need to be laid horizontally, with room for your arms to dangle to the sides beneath you. An exercise bench would be useful for this.
1. Lay down, face first, on a bench. Allow your arms to rest below you and to the side.
2. Keep your elbow straight and rotate your shoulder so your palm faces forward and your thumb away from you.
3. Raise your arm to the side until your shoulder makes a 90-degree angle with your body.
4. Your thumb should face the sky when the arm is raised. Repeat this for two to three sets. As you become more confident and your shoulders stronger, you can increase from body weight to light dumbbells.
Infraspinatus and Teres Minor Exercises
The infraspinatus sits on the dorsal surface of the scapula and parts of the deltoid and latissimus dorsi muscles. The teres minor is on the posterior surface of the scapula, opposite its lateral border.
Banded Internal Rotation
Equipment: You’ll need a resistance band. These come in varying strengths; choose one you feel most comfortable with. This will be wrapped around a standing object.
1. Wrap the band around the sturdy object and assume a standing position.
2. Flex your elbow to 90 degrees and hold the band in one hand.
3. Bring your hand towards your body while ensuring your elbow remains right to your torso.
4. Then, slowly bring the band in and back to the starting position. This should all be done under control. Repeat for two to three sets.
Band Reverse Fly
Equipment: You’ll need a resistance band. These come in varying strengths; choose one you feel most comfortable with.
1. Stand on a resistance band with both feet. You’ll then be able to hold the handles or the remaining sections of the band.
2. Bend your knees slightly and lower your back so it’s parallel to the floor.
3. Now, raise your arms to the side, with your elbows bent towards the front.
4. Lower the band back to the starting position and repeat for two to three sets.
Side-Lying External Rotation
Equipment: No equipment is needed except something to prop your arm up.
1. Lay down on your side.
2. Keep your knees together, but bend your legs behind you slightly.
3. Place a cushion or towel under your armpit so your shoulder remains still.
4. Bend your top arm to a 90-degree angle.
5. From this point, rotate your arm until your hand faces the ceiling. You should start to feel a small stretch in your shoulder muscles. Hold this for three seconds before repeating for two to three sets on both arms.
How To Have A Safe And Effective Recovery
Having a safe shoulder recovery journey is of utmost importance. The road to healing after surgery can be a daunting one. If operating on your shoulder cuff isn’t an option, you can often achieve great function without this. To do so, there are some simple steps to get the best out of this time.
1. Consult with your healthcare provider
As with all independent circumstances, your doctor can provide the necessary information on what is right for you and your recovery.
This could mean a recommendation to rest until the pain lessens, or a series of healing techniques could be suggested depending on the severity of the damage. This could include exercising, red light therapy, medication, hot or cold treatments, or even acupuncture.
You should create a personal plan tailored to your needs.
2. Introduce a healing plan
Consider the use of red light therapy. This non-invasive treatment uses specific wavelengths to stimulate cellular activity and promote function, repair, and regeneration.
It can be used in a targeted way so you can focus on your shoulder specifically. It’s a great way to help treat shoulder pain as it accelerates tissue repair, allowing people to recover more swiftly. It’s non-intensive too, so if you’re in too much pain to exercise at this stage, the consistent use of red light therapy can be extremely beneficial.
3. Slowly introduce exercise back into your routine
The aim is to start exercising when you feel ready to, as this can strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, reduce stiffness, and enable a better range of motion. All of these aspects will help your muscles heal and feel as good as before.
Start with lower-intensity exercises like the 4-point exercise, which focuses on shifting weight to each side of your body. The pendulum is another easy activity to bring on a small stretch while helping you gauge how much you can move your shoulder at this stage.
4. Stay patient
It can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re facing weeks or months of pain while your shoulder is repairing itself. Seeking support from red light therapy while introducing exercising back into your routine can help significantly.
How Can Kineon Help With Shoulder Rehabilitation?
At Kineon, we have created a medical-grade light therapy device - called Move+ Pro - that can help reduce shoulder pain in as little as 5 minutes. And the best part? You can treat your pain at home.
Combining both LED lights and laser technology, you can specifically pinpoint your problem areas for fast and effective relief. This means you can place the device on your shoulder joint, upper or lower arm, and the wavelength from the red light will penetrate your skin to deliver energy to the cells.
Once delivered, this will stimulate healing, relieve pain, and activate all the good stuff that red light therapy is known for.
The Move+ Pro is a small device that is completely wireless, so you don’t have to be tethered in to use it. It’s also FDA-registered, giving you peace of mind that you’re getting a reliable and effective device to help you on your journey to rehabilitation.
The Effectiveness Of Light Therapy
Light therapy has been used in one form or another for centuries, and we’re really talking centuries. Ancient civilization once harnessed the power of sunlight through worshipping practices and now, in 2023, it’s being used worldwide across hospitals, sports rehabilitation centers, and even in spas.
The potential of light therapy is huge, as it can stimulate cellular activity, reduce inflammation, promote healing and rejuvenation, speed up tissue repair, and alleviate muscle soreness.
Complement Your Exercises With Kineon
With Kineon, everyone and anyone can experience the vast advantages of light therapy using tools like our revolutionary Move+ Pro device.
Our medical-grade laser technology can achieve precise and targeted relief to alleviate the relentless discomfort and frustrations of shoulder recovery.
The Move+ Pro is the solution you have long been yearning for. Our customers report an 80% reduction in pain within 1-4 weeks!