The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body. This freedom of movement allows us to perform many of our activities of daily living and athletic endeavors. With more and more people staying fit and practicing their sports well into adulthood, it’s especially important to maintain strength and flexibility in your shoulder to prevent injury.
The key to avoiding problems is muscle balance and synchronous movement throughout the shoulder. Imbalances can lead to shoulder pain, impingement or a rotator cuff injury. Shoulder pain and discomfort can cause us to compensate and overuse muscles in our neck and back, leading to more issues.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to maintain a full range of motion and flexibility throughout your shoulder and avoid problems. A targeted strengthening program can go a long way towards keeping your muscles strong and balanced.
Exercises for Flexibility
1) Hold a cane shoulder width apart, palms facing up:
Raise the cane overhead until you feel a light stretch:
Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, and perform 5-10 repetitions.
Do not push into pain.
2) Reach across your body with one arm, grab your elbow with the opposite arm and pull gently until you feel a stretch but not pain:
Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, and perform 5 repetitions.
Exercises for Strength
1) Tie an elastic band to something secure, like a doorknob, and hold one end of the band in each hand with your arms extended:
Pull the elastic band while squeezing the shoulder blades together:
Hold for 3-5 seconds. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
3) Hold an elastic band in one hand with a towel roll under your armpit and your hand resting on your stomach:
Rotate your arm away from your body, while keeping your arm against the towel roll. Stop at the 2 o’clock position:
Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
4) Stand holding a small weight (2-3 pounds) in each hand. Raise the arms up to shoulder height tracing the shape of a horizontal “V”:
Refer to top picture for reference
Bring your arms back down to your sides. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Before starting a new exercise program it is always best to consult with your treating physician or physical therapist.
Lee Rosenzweig is a doctor of physical therapy and certified hand therapist at the Joint Mobility Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.