A pained shoulder may be the result of an inflamed bursa -- a fluid-filled sac that provides cushioning between the bones in your shoulder joint. This sac is referred to as the subacromial bursa. The acromion -- a bony projection from your shoulder blade -- provides a roof over this bursa. Weak muscles, loose tendons or excessively mobile bones can rub against or impinge on the bursa, causing pain, tenderness and swelling. Exercises which strengthen the muscles around the bursa may relieve subacromial bursitis -- inflammation of this bursa; however, consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.
Exercises for the tiny muscles of the rotator cuff -- the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor muscles -- tighten these muscles, making your shoulder more stable, decreasing impingement on the subacromial bursa. These exercises also keep the tendons surrounding the bursa in place, minimizing the friction between the tendons and the bursa. Applying a heat pack over the injured shoulder prior to doing the exercises increases blood circulation and tissue temperature; this facilitates exercise by reducing pain and increasing range of motion. Applying a cold pack over the shoulder after your rehab routine reduces new swelling, expediting the healing process.
Lying Dumbbell External Rotation
External rotations strengthen your infraspinatus and teres minor muscles. You can feel the infraspinatus if you touch the posterior, lower surface of your shoulder blade. The teres minor muscle lies on the outermost, lower border of your shoulder blade. Both muscles attach to the lateral, uppermost end of your arm bone.
This exercise is performed by holding a light dumbbell in the hand that's on the same side as your injured shoulder, then lying on the opposite side of your body. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees, draping your forearm across your abdomen; keep your injured upper arm and elbow tucked against your ribs. To work your external rotators, raise the dumbbell, rotating your arm outward as much as possible; repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions.
Lying Dumbbell Internal Rotation
This exercise engages the subscapularis muscle, which lies on the anterior surface, or underside of the scapula, and attaches to the anterior, upper end of your arm bone. First, lie flat on your back, holding a light dumbbell in the hand that's on the same side as your injured shoulder. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees, tucking your upper arm against your rib cage with your forearm rotated out to the side as much as possible. To work your internal rotator, pull the dumbbell toward you and across your abdomen; repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions.
Performing lateral raises with a very light dumbbell enables you to focus more on the supraspinatus muscle, instead of the deltoid muscle. You may do this exercise standing up or sitting down. Begin by holding the dumbbell with the hand that's on the same side as the injured shoulder. Align your entire arm along the side of your body; keep a slight bend in your elbow. Raise the dumbbell out to your side until your arm is parallel to the floor, holding the contraction for 3 seconds; repeat for three sets of 15 reps.
- “Examination of Musculoskeletal Injuries”; Sandra Shultz, Ph.D., Peggy Houglum, Ph.D., and David Perrin, Ph.D.; 2005
- “Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries”; Peggy Houglum, Ph.D.; 2005