The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body. A ball and socket joint, it allows the shoulder to move in a wide range of motions. And, injuries can be difficult to pinpoint as discussed in a previous post.  Injuries are generally the result of overuse and repetitive motion tending to affect the muscles, ligaments, and tendons rather than the bones. Athletes participating in overhead arm activities such as baseball, tennis, volleyball, weightlifting, or swimming are particularly susceptible to rotator cuff or shoulder problems.

Instability occurs when the humerus moves or is forced out of its normal position. Whereas an impingement is caused by excessive rubbing of the shoulder muscles against the top part of the shoulder blade or acromion. Of course, partial or full tears can occur in the rotator cuff tendons. Injuries can also occur in an accident, a fall, or even reaching around your back for something.

Conservative care is the best approach and can often help avoid surgery. 

Often, conservative treatments of rest, ice, anti-inflammatories along with physical therapy can rehabilitate an injury and prevent surgery.  Seeking care early can keep the injury from getting worse. Physical therapy can help strengthen  rotator cuff muscles, train you to avoid potentially harmful positions, and determine when it is appropriate for you to return to your normal activities.

As part of our “5 for 2015″ series, below are five shoulder strengthening exercises you can do with a resistance band. The bands come in a variety of sizes, lengths, and strengths and it is recommended you consult with a health care professional to determine the correct one for you. Best of all, this portable exercise equipment is easily stored, making it ideal for use at home, when traveling, or at the gym.  At home or if traveling the bands can be secured through a closed door. Knot the band in the middle and place it on the opposite side of the door.  Make sure it is securely in place before beginning.

Start off slow 

If you are not use to doing these exercises, it is best to begin slowly, doing each for just 10 seconds.  Try to do 2 or 3 sets a few times per week and gradually increase the time.

External Rotation – Builds up Muscles in Rotator Cuff

To begin these exercises start with 1-2 sets of 10-15, 2-3 times a week.  Work up to 3 sets of 20.  Make sure to rest and you should be experiencing no pain.

  • Secure one end of a resistance band to an object at the level of your chest.
  • Wrap the end of the band around your hand and grasp it firm.
  • Place a rolled towel between your body and upper arm to limit the movement of your upper arm.
  • Position your arm straight out to the side and bend your elbow 90 degrees so that your forearm points at the object securing the band.
  • Step to the side to create resistance in the band.
  • Without moving your upper arm, pull the band away from the object until your lower arm points in the other direction.
  • Return your upper arm to its original position. Repeat with the other arm.

Internal Rotation – Builds up Muscles in Rotator Cuff

  • Secure one end of a resistance band to an object at the level of your chest.
  • Wrap the end of the band around your hand and grasp it firm.
  • Place a rolled towel between your body and upper arm to limit the movement of your upper arm.
  • Position your arm straight out to the side and bend your elbow 90 degrees so that your forearm points at the object securing the band.
  • Step to the side to create resistance in the band.
  • Pull the handle in towards your abdomen and allow it to slowly return after a short pause.
  • Keep your upper arm pressed against your abdomen and elbow bent throughout. Repeat with the other arm.

Standing Row – Strengthens Upper Back and Improves Posture

  • Secure one end of a resistance band to an object at the level of your chest.
  • Position feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Wrap the end of the bands around your hands and grasp it firmly with palms facing each other just in front of your thighs.
  • Pull the band straight back so your elbows contact your hips, keeping your elbows bent and positioned in a high “V.”
  • You should feel a pull in the upper back.
  • Slowly lower back down to starting

Standing Bicep Curl – Strengthens Bicep and Shoulder

Lat Pull Down – Strengthens the Shoulder Muscle

  • Attach the center of the band to a stationary object above your head.
  • Hold the ends of the band in your hands.
  • Start with your arms out in front of you, elbows straight and hands level with your chest
  • Keeping your arms straight slowly lower them so your arms are adjacent to your body.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

This exercise is deceiving and is much tougher than it looks.  Standing up right with shoulders back and arms at your side, close your eyes. Left one leg off the ground a few inches.  Maintain your balance for 5-10 seconds.  You will feel it in your mid-section. Make sure to breathe.  Lower your leg and repeat on the other side.

Please consult your physician or professional healthcare provider before beginning this or any exercise program. The advice given is in no way intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Discontinue any exercise that causes you pain, severe discomfort, nausea, dizziness, or shortness of breath and consult a medical expert. Start slowly and at the level that is appropriate for you. Not all exercise plans are suitable for everyone.

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