7 shoulder stretches to prevent rotator cuff tears

7 shoulder stretches to prevent rotator cuff tears

You may believe that stretching is solely beneficial for sports or for healing ailments. If so, it may come as a surprise to hear that shoulder stretches are beneficial for the majority of people, especially if you spend the majority of your day sitting with your shoulder blades rounded forward.

According to physical therapist and owner of More 4 Life Dave Candy, a rounded forward posture puts you at risk for neck and shoulder issues.

However, stretching becomes even more essential as you approach and past middle age.

“Rotator cuff tears become increasingly common after age 40, even among those with no shoulder pain,” explains Candy. Each year, more than two million Americans seek medical attention for rotator cuff issues.

A tear can cause pain, decreased mobility, and difficulties with daily duties. However, shoulder exercises are an excellent approach to improve posture, reduce injury risk, and alleviate muscular stiffness and soreness.

These seven stretches can aid in shoulder mobility and alleviate shoulder and neck pain.

When stretching, it is essential not to exceed your limits. Stretching should never be painful. Ensure that you thoroughly comprehend how to perform each exercise and go cautiously, halting a stretch immediately if you experience pain.

1. Wall angel
The wall angel shoulder stretch resembles a pull-up in motion.
Insider Crystal Cox/Insider

Candy explains that this stretch opens your chest, enhances your range of motion overhead, and extends your latissimus dorsi.

Your latissimus dorsi, also known as lats, are the broad, V-shaped back muscles. Consider the motion of a pull-up as they assist in bringing your arm back toward your body.

How to do it

1. Position your feet shoulder-width apart and your back against a wall. It is acceptable for your upper back and head to touch the wall or not, according to Candy.

Extend your arms 90 degrees from your body, bending your elbows 90 degrees as well. Your arms should, in other terms, form a “L” configuration.

Pull your arms back until your fingers are against the wall. But do not attempt to press your elbows back if they do not touch the wall, advises Candy.

4. From there, slide your fingertips as far up the wall as possible while maintaining contact with your lower back. You are essentially building a snow angel while leaning against the wall.

5. Hold the movement’s peak position for 5 to 10 seconds, then return to the starting position.

Repeat five to ten times.

2. Doorway chest extension
Long durations of sitting can cause your pectoral muscles to become chronically tense. The doorway chest stretch can help release these muscles.

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This exercise aims to increase the flexibility of the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor chest muscles, according to Candy.

The pectoralis muscles extend from the sternum to the humerus. You use them when you draw your arms together toward your midsection or move them forward in a pushing motion, such as when performing a bench press or pushup.

Spending a great deal of time seated and looking down — at your phone or a book, for example — can tighten these muscles, which adds to rounded shoulders.

The doorway stretch helps to open your chest, allowing you to take deeper breaths and maintain a neutral shoulder position.

Shoulder alignment is an essential component of proper posture. Poor posture can cause pain, impair balance and respiration, and increase the likelihood of injury.

How to proceed

Faceing a doorway, make a “L” with your arms by raising them and bending them at 90-degree angles. Palms should be facing forward.

Rest your hands on each side of the doorway and take a few steps forward until you feel a mild stretch in your chest.

3. Hold the stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds, but ideally 1 minute or longer, suggests Candy.

If you are unable to maintain a stretch due to pain or discomfort, you are likely stretching too far.

Note: Be certain you maintain balance on your feet and not by leaning towards the doorway. Candy advises that your arm and chest muscles should be relaxed to facilitate stretching.

3. Sleeper stretch
If you experience pain while performing the sleeper stretch, you should adjust your arm.

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This stretch stretches the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles at the rear of the shoulder.

Candy advises stretching the posterior aspect of the shoulder since tightness in that region increases the likelihood of pinching the rotator cuff muscles.

How to proceed

1.Lie on your side on a solid surface, like a yoga mat or massage table. Your legs can be positioned as is most comfortable.

Hold the arm underneath you straight out from the body with the elbow bent 90 degrees.

Position the hand of your upper arm on the back of your lower arm’s forearm.

Slowly lower your arm till you feel a mild stretch. Ensure that your elbow does not slip throughout the movement.

5. Maintain for 30 seconds

Repeat three times.

This stretch should be felt in the rear of the shoulder, not the front. Candy suggests moving your arm, shifting your body back slightly, or just not stretching as far if you experience any pain.

4. Shoulder wall walk
If you’ve recently sustained an injury and need to stretch your shoulder gently, the shoulder wall walk stretch is ideal.

Insider Crystal Cox/Insider

Wall walks are a gently aided stretch that helps increase shoulder flexibility and strength.

After surgery or an injury, healthcare providers may recommend this stretch as part of physical therapy. You can also use it if you want to begin slowly expanding your shoulders.

How to proceed

1. With your arms shoulder-width apart and palms facing each other, place your pinky fingers on a wall.

Move your hands slowly up the wall. Your arms and shoulder blades should be rising upward simultaneously.

3. Once your arms have reached the highest point they can comfortably reach, hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds before returning to the beginning position.

Repeat five to ten times.

Commonly, this stretch is performed by facing a wall and using your fingers to “walk” your arm up with palms facing forward. Keeping your palms in this position, however, rotates your shoulders inward, which increases the danger of pinching your rotator cuff tendons, according to Candy.

5. Stretch the shoulders with a towel
The shoulder towel stretch can be performed without a towel. If you are having difficulty gripping the towel, try an alternative such as a leash, belt, or yoga strap.

Insider Crystal Cox/Insider

This position strains your internal rotators, therefore it may be beneficial if you engage in activities that demand a lot of overhead motions, such as tennis or baseball, or if your profession needs a lot of reaching or lifting above shoulder level.

Physical therapist at SporTherapy Riley Wood recommends this stretch if you have difficulties reaching behind your back to put your wallet in a pocket, clasp your bra, or wash your back.

How to proceed

Place a towel over one shoulder and grip it by reaching behind the back with the opposing hand. Grasp the towel with your right hand if it is draped over your left shoulder.

Once you are holding the towel with one hand behind your back, use the other hand to grip the towel’s top end from the front.

3. Lift the towel from the front of your body with care. You should feel a stretch in the front or side of the shoulder on the opposing side.

4. Pull only till you feel a stretch. There should be no pain.

5. Hold this posture for approximately thirty seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.

Perform the stretch three times per side.

Wood notes that this exercise can also be performed using equipment other than a towel, such as a dog leash, a belt, or a yoga strap. These instruments may be simpler to use.

6. Pendulum stretch
When practicing the pendulum stretch, it is important to maintain a relaxed arm.

Insider Crystal Cox/Insider

This stretch is frequently used in rehabilitation after surgery or for conditions such as a frozen shoulder, so you may not require it if your shoulder mobility is already sufficient.

However, if you have painful or extremely tight shoulders, the pendulum stretch is an excellent approach to relax up the joint and increase range of motion, according to Wood.

How to proceed

Rest one arm on a surface that can adequately support it, such as a table, counter, or chair.

2. stoop to a comfortable position, somewhere between a modest bend and 90 degrees, and allow your other arm to hang at your side.

Move your entire body, not just your shoulder, to move your arm. You can experiment with front-to-back, side-to-side, and circular motions.

Try performing 10 motions in each direction.

To perform the pendulum stretch properly, you must move your body in order to swing your arm. Your arm is not actively moved. Wood advises that the stretched arm must remain relaxed in order to achieve the full benefits of the practice.

7. Arm swings
At the peak of the arm swing stretch, you can experiment with modifications by forming a “X” with your arms.

Insider Crystal Cox/Insider

Arm swings are a type of dynamic stretching, which involves movement rather than simply holding a position. Swinging the arms increases blood flow and stretches the shoulder, chest, and back.

Regular arm swings may seem like a little workout, but they can help release your shoulders and may provide additional health advantages.

In a small 2015 trial, 24 men with type 2 diabetes performed 30-minute arm swings three times per week for eight weeks. At the conclusion of the study, researchers discovered that participants had lower levels of body fat, hemoglobin A1c, and LDL cholesterol, as well as greater lung capacity.

How to proceed

Straighten your back and set your feet firmly on the ground. Keep your head erect while remaining relaxed.

Face directly forward and swing your arms forward and backward.

3. You can experiment with the appropriate amount of arm swing, but in the study referenced above, individuals swung their arms approximately 30 degrees forward and 60 degrees back.

4.Performing them for just one to two minutes should help release your muscles.

Examples of variations to attempt include:

Start with your arms at your sides and dangling down. Then, sweep your arms upward and across your body to form a “X” at the highest position.
Begin with your arms straight out at your sides. Then, swing them in till they cross in front of your chest, and then out again.
When to seek medical care

Stretching may not assist if you have an untreated injury or chronic shoulder pain. It could even exacerbate the condition.

Always consult your physician if you experience joint or muscle discomfort that:

If your shoulder pain is accompanied by swelling, redness, or tenderness, you should schedule an appointment with a physician immediately.

The key takeaway

Your shoulders contribute significantly to your posture, and poor shoulder health can cause stiffness, pain, and decreased mobility.

The danger of rotator cuff tears grows with age, making shoulder health even more crucial as one ages.

Adding some of the aforementioned shoulder stretches to your normal exercise routine could significantly improve your shoulder’s strength and mobility.

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