There are a huge number of different shoulder exercises recommended to anyone reading up on the subject on the internet but which type of exercise should you be doing if you have suffered a rotator cuff injury.
The rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles that help to strengthen and stabilise the shoulder. These muscles tend to work on autopilot, coming into effect whenever we move our shoulders. They help to pull the arm into the shoulder stopping it from becoming dislocated and stabilising the joint as we move it. Unlike some of the larger muscle groups involved in shoulder movement we tend to be unaware of our rotator cuff until something goes wrong, but when it does we are very quickly reminded how important a job this small group of muscles do.
Rotator cuff injuries can vary from simple tendonitis through to a complete rotator cuff tear and whatever the injury, exercise will feature somewhere in the recovery program to some extent or another. The important thing with rotator cuff injuries is the timing of the exercise.
It is essential with whatever type of rotator cuff injury that you allow sufficient time for the muscles to heal and recover from their injury before you attempt any type of exercise and then, once you start exercising it is essential that it is the right type of exercise.
Tendonitis of the rotator cuff is simply inflammation of one or more of the tendons of this small group of muscles. Although this is a relatively simple injury to treat it is often symptomatic of underlying problems. You need to treat the inflammation with rest and ice packs initially. Once the inflammation has reduced and the joint is once again pain free you can start with gentle exercises that need to be non weight bearing or low resistance. If you experience any pain stop exercising as this is a sign that the muscles has not healed completely.
Ignore shoulder tendonitis and you may well end up with a shoulder impingement. This is where the tendons of the rotator cuff have become so badly inflamed that they start to get pinched or impinged by the bones of the shoulder. Again the treatment for this will involve rest to allow the muscles to heal but this time the rest period is likely to be much longer. Again, once the inflammation and pain have subsided you should be able to start low resistance exercises to strengthen the shoulder.
Ignore a shoulder impingement and the rubbing action caused by the impingement can actual damage the tendons. This can lead to a partial or even complete rotator cuff tear where the tendon actually becomes torn. The treatment, in most cases is the same as for the above but the timescales are much longer. The above was a very simplified version of what can be a very complicated story.
The main thing to remember is that with any rotator cuff injury you must avoid any exercise until the shoulder is healed. When you do exercise use low resistance non weight-bearing exercises to strengthen and stabilise the damaged shoulder before you try anything else. Stop exercising immediately if you experience any pain.