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Rotator Cuff Pain-How Do You Fix It?

When shoulder pain rears its ugly head, “Rotator Cuff” seems to be one of those buzzwords that makes it way into every gym goer’s vocabulary.

If you go searching the internet for ‘Rotator cuff pain”, you will come across an endless list of information about exercises to do, how to fix it, and what things might have caused it.  But what does rotator cuff pain really mean for you, your training, and your long-term health?


What IS the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that hold the ball of your humerus (upper arm bone) into your glenoid (shoulder socket). The muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.  These muscles play a particularly important role in your ability to stabilize that shoulder joint with movement. When you move your arm, these muscles work together to coordinate movement, but when one is dysfunctional in some way it loses that ability, which can lead to pain and weakness. 


The 4 rotator cuff muscles help hold the ball and socket joint together to coordinate movement of the arm.


Why did it start hurting?

Most likely, it was a movement you did that overstressed the rotator cuff, or poor movement over time that overstressed one specific area. Pain can be caused by many things like falling onto your shoulder, lifting something very heavy, or trying to catch your kid as they tumble to the ground. Sometimes there isn't one specific thing, and it's the years of poor movement that caused it to wear down slowly.


How does this impact your training?

A painful rotator cuff doesn’t always mean your training will be affected. If the pain is mild enough, you may be able to train normally, just with some discomfort. But when rotator cuff pain does affect your training, there are some things you can do to reduce the pain to help it heal.

First: A decrease in training intensity may be necessary. Now I know this is the last thing you came here to read, but this can give your body a chance to heal and prevent more issues. If you are consistently going hard in the gym and performing a high volume of bench pressing, dips, overhead pressing, lateral raises, handstand pushups, burpees, etc etc… there may be a chance you are overworking that shoulder and what it can handle.  Try decreasing the volume of any exercise  that uses the shoulder by 50% for a 2 week period- so if you’re doing 8 exercises in a day decrease it to 4. You can also cut your sets in half for each exercise, or reduce your training load/weights by 50%.

Second: You will need to implement a proper warm up when performing your chest/shoulder days. A proper warm up primes your muscles for action by delivering blood and gets them more ready to contract and relax. This can be as simple as taking 2-3 exercises that target the muscles you’re working that day and moving through the motions with a light resistance and slow controlled motions. I included the exercises I love to use in my Shoulder Mobility/Warm Up routine.

Third: You can add in specific exercises aimed at strengthening your rotator cuff.  I have recorded some videos to get you started in the right spot. No matter how strong you think you are, start with the beginner exercises and work your way up. I’ve seen some strong guys humbled by the beginner exercises when they take the time and do them correctly.

Beginner rotator cuff strengthening

Intermediate rotator cuff strengthening

Advanced rotator cuff strengthening


What if nothing seems to help?

Having rotator cuff pain does not have to be a lifelong battle! Many people can successfully decrease their pain and get back to an active lifestyle and all the things they love doing. For a large percentage of the population with rotator cuff pain, this is something that can be managed with the right tools.

The fastest way to recovery is scheduling with a licensed physical therapist. We can thoroughly assess the shoulder and all involved areas to determine the cause, and a specific plan to reduce your pain and improve movement, so you can get back to the gym without limitation!

If you're in the New Albany, Ohio area and are looking for help with your Rotator Cuff pain, schedule a FREE 15 minute phone call by clicking the link below. We have helped hundreds of active locals get back to their busy lives and continue doing the things they love!


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