Shoulder Impingement Exercises

What is a Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder Impingement is the compression of the following structures in the shoulder:

  • Subacromial Bursa
  • Supraspinatus tendon

As a result – this can lead to the following painful conditions:

a) Subacromial Bursitis

This is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sac structure (Bursa) in the area of your shoulder that is underneath the acromion (Subacromial).


b) Supraspinatus tendinopathy

The Supraspinatus is part of a group of shoulder muscles called the rotator cuff.

It has the important role of stabilizing and moving the shoulder joint.

As the Supraspinatus tendon is located in the area directly underneath the acromion, it is susceptible to getting compressed.

This can lead issues such as:

  • Inflammation (“Rotator cuff Tendinitis”)
  • Degeneration (“Rotator cuff Tendinosis”)
  • Tear (“Rotator cuff tear”)
  • Calcification
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Neck pain

What causes Shoulder Impingement?

  • Poor posture (Eg. Rounded shoulders, Thoracic Kyphosis)
  • Repetitive use of shoulder (especially over head)
  • Poor scapulohumeral rhythm
  • Acromial spurs
  • Poor joint centration of the humeral head

The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information: Medical disclaimer.


Tests for Shoulder Impingement

Note: These tests give a general guide line in diagnosing your shoulder problem.

Many other structures in your shoulder can also make these tests reproduce pain as well.


a) Symptoms

shoulder impingement symptoms

The area of pain is usually felt deep within the point of the shoulder.

In many cases, pain can also refer down the side of your upper arm. (see above)

Pain is often aggravated in certain positions of shoulder such as over head movements.

b) Painful arc

painful-arc

Instructions:

  • Raise your arm out to the side and over your head.
    • (Also known as Shoulder abduction)

Findings:

  • Unable to lift arm into full range.
  • Pain between 60-120 degrees of abduction.
  • Nil or reduced pain at early (0-60 degrees) and late (120-180 degrees) shoulder abduction.

b) Hawkins Kennedy test

test for shoulder impingement

Instructions:

  • Bring your bent arm to 90 degrees of shoulder flexion in front of you. (see above)
  • Crank your hand down with the help of your other hand. (Shoulder Internal rotation)
    • Do not let your shoulder hitch upwards.

Findings: Reproduction of your shoulder symptoms with the movement.


c) Neer’s test

shoulder impingement test

Instructions:

  • Raise your arm a) in front of you and b) to the side with your thumb pointing downwards.

Findings: Reproduction of your shoulder symptoms with the movement.


Exercises For Shoulder Impingement

Note: These Shoulder Impingement exercises must be comfortable and performed gently. Listen to your body!


Step 1: Stop aLL activities that cause pain

How can you expect your shoulder to get better if you keep exposing it the activities that make it worse?

It may sound really straightforward, but I’ve seen so many people get this first simple step wrong.

… STOP aggravating your pain!

The body can not (…and will not) heal itself if you don’t allow enough time for it to do so.

“… If it hurts, don’t do it!
If feels fine, keep at it!”

Avoid aggravating positions such as over head movements, lifting and sleeping on the painful shoulder!

reaching

Quick tip: When you do use your shoulder, try to keep your elbows as close to the side of your body as possible.


Step 2: Reduce inflammation

If there is excessive inflammation in the area, everything will be painful!

Once the inflammation levels have subsided, we can then start the Shoulder Impingement exercises without aggravating the shoulder again.

a) Anti-inflammatory gel

anti-inflammatory medication for shoulder impingement

Apply the anti-inflammatory gel to the whole shoulder.

Do this 2-3/day.

I prefer products with natural active ingredients like arnica, calendula or hypericum.

b) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

It is recommended that you take a strong anti-inflammatory medication for at least 7-10 days.

(Please consult your general practitioner before taking any new medication)

c) Ice/Cold therapy

coldpack

Apply an ice pack to your shoulder for at least 10-15 minutes.

Do this 3-5 times per day.

d) Shoulder sling

If the pain is severe, you can temporarily immobilize your shoulder for a short period of time.

(… do NOT wear it for longer than 1-2 days!)

e) Try natural products

Taking turmeric and/or fish oil capsules are natural ways to help reduce the inflammation.

Step 3: Reduce pressure on painful structures

a) Shoulder release

This will help decompress the shoulder joint.

releases for shoulder impingement

  • Place your shoulder muscles into a massage ball onto the floor.
  • Target muscles: Deltoid
  • Continue for 2-3 minutes to cover the entire area.

b) Shoulder Impingement stretches

Shoulder Impingement stretches

Instructions:

  • Anchor a strong resistance band underneath your foot.
  • Whilst holding onto the end of the resistance band, start to lean away from the band.
  • Aim to feel a downward pulling sensation in your shoulder.
  • Keep your shoulder as relaxed as possible.
  • Apply more tension to the band if you would like to increase the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3-5 times.

Note: Do NOT pull into sharp pain. (… especially if you have a tear!)

Step 4: Release tight muscles

The following tight muscles can limit how much you can raise your arm.

Instructions:

  • Place target area on top of a massage ball or a foam roller.
  • Apply an appropriate amount of your body weight on to the ball
  • Continue for 1 minute on each area.
  • Make sure that you cover the whole muscle.
  • (I strongly recommend looking up the exact location of these muscles on Google.)

a) Pec minor

releases to pec minor

b) Latissimus Dorsi

latissimus dorsi releases

c) Teres Major

teres major release

d) Triceps

Step 5: Initial Shoulder Impingement exercises

The goal here is to keep the shoulder as mobile as possible.

Do what you can.
Don’t do more than you can’t…

Overprotecting your shoulder may predispose you developing frozen shoulder. (… and that’s way worse!

a) Pendulum

pendulum exercise for shoulder impingement

Instructions:

  • Lean over a chair and allow your arm to hang underneath you.
  • Using the momentum of your arm, gently sway your arm side ways/forwards/backwards/circles.
  • Allow the shoulder to move as much as you can without reproducing any pain.
  • Repeat each movement for 10 repetitions each.
  • Alternative:
    • Roll a ball on a table top in a circular motion.
  • Progression: Generate more tension throughout the whole arm as you move the arm.

b) Forward leans

gentle shoulder impingement exercises

Instructions:

  • Place your hand on the back of a chair.
  • Lean forward as to bring your arm in an upwards direction.
    • Do this as much as you can without reproducing any pain.
  • Repeat 20 times.
  • Alternative:
    • Roll a ball forwards/backwards on a table top.
    • Roll a ball up/down the wall.

c) Rotations

external rotation of the shoulder

Instructions:

  • Bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
  • Keep your elbows in contact with the side of your body.
  • Proceed to rotated your arm outwards/inwards.
  • Allow the shoulder to move as much as you can without reproducing any pain.
  • Repeat 20 times.
  • Progression: Generate more tension throughout the whole arm as you move the arm.

d) Shoulder flexion with band

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back.
  • Hold a resistance band between your hands.
  • Gently pull the band apart.
  • Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  • Raise your arms as far as possible without reproducing any pain.
  • Repeat 20 times.

Step 6: Encourage joint centration

If the shoulder bone (… also known as the humeral head) is not centered within the shoulder socket, it can often move into a forwards and upwards direction.

This may increase the chance of impingement in the shoulder.


a) Posterior shoulder release

A tight posterior capsule can push the humeral head forward in the shoulder socket.

posterior capsule

Instructions:

  • Place the back portion of your shoulder on top of a massage ball.
  • Apply an appropriate amount of your body weight into the area.
  • Continue for 1 minute.

b) Posterior shoulder stretch

posterior capsule stretch of shoulder

Instructions:

  • Gently pull your shoulder blades backwards.
  • Without moving your shoulder blades, bring your arm across the body.
  • Pull the arm further with your other hand.
  • Aim to feel a stretch at the back of your shoulder.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

c) Anti-impingement exercises (Resistance bands)

Humeral head depression:

You need to get familiar with the sensation of depressing your humeral head in your shoulder socket.

Imagine your shoulder bone is constantly being sucked in a downwards AND inwards direction into the socket whilst you move your arm.

(This may take some time to understand and perform correctly… and that’s fine. Keep at it!)


Extension:

exercise for shoulder impingement

Instructions:

  • Anchor resistance band on top of the door.
  • Face the door.
  • Starting at shoulder height, pull the resistance band down towards your body.
  • Keep constant tension through resistance band throughout movement.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • Slowly return the hand back to shoulder height
    • If this hurts, you may want to start at a lower height
  • Repeat 10-30 times. 3 sets.
  • Progression:
    • Start from a higher position.
    • Apply more tension to the band

Adduction:

subacromial bursitis exercises

Instructions

  • Anchor resistance band on top of the door.
  • Stand side on to the door.
    • The affected shoulder should be closer to the door.
  • Starting at shoulder height, pull the resistance band down towards your body.
  • Make sure your palms are facing forward.
  • Keep constant tension through resistance band throughout movement.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • Slowly return the hand back to shoulder height
    • If this hurts, you may want to start at a lower height
  • Repeat 10-30 times.
  • Perform 3 sets.
  • Progression:
    • Start from a higher position.
    • Apply more tension to the band

Step 7: Ideal scapula position

By optimizing the scapula position, this will help reduce impingement in the subacromial space.

This is a quick and easy way to reset your shoulders into a more neutral position.

If you ever forget where your shoulder should be, do this:

correct shoulder position

Instructions:

  • Keep your shoulders “long and wide”: Reach and stretch out your hands as far to opposite sides as possible. (see above)
  • RetractionSlightly bring your arms backwards.
    • Make sure you can feel a gentle contraction between your shoulder blades.
    • Do not over squeeze your shoulder blades together!
  • Posterior Tilt: Turn your palms upwards so that your thumbs are angled towards the floor.
    • Imagine the inferior angle (“the pointy part of lower scapula”) is digging into the back of your rib cage.

Take note of your new shoulder position. 

Keep this position and slowly lower your arms down by your side.


Now that you know how your scapula should ideally sit, it is just as important to understand how it should MOVE as you use your arm.

[See video]

Main points:

  • It is VITAL that your scapula moves properly when you lift your arm up. (especially over head)
  • As the arm is raised, the scapula should laterally rotate so that the inferior angle reaches the side of your ribs.
    • This will promote more space in the subacromial space where compression occurs.
  • It can help if you visualize how the scapula should be moving as you use your arm.
  • The scapula should sit flat on the rib cage throughout movement.

This is achieved by learning how to…

Step 8: Activate your Serratus anterior

This muscle is responsible for moving your shoulder blade more effectively as you use your arm.

It is important that you can feel the Serratus Anterior muscle contracting as you perform the following strengthening exercises.

Activating the Serratus anterior:

serratus anterior exercises

Instructions:

  • Assume the wall plank position. (see above)
  • Assume the Ideal scapula position.
    • (See step 6)
  • Activate the Serratus Anterior by pushing your forearms into the wall:
    • Pull your shoulder blades DOWN and AROUND the ribs.
    • Keep your shoulders long/wide.
  • Aim to feel the contraction in the lower and side region of the scapula.
    • (… This is where the Serratus Anterior muscle is!)
  • There should be a balance between the muscles that are pulling backwards and the muscles that are pulling down/around.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • Progression: Whilst maintaining the activation of the Serratus Anterior, slide your forearms up/down the wall.

For more exercises like thisSerratus Anterior strengthening exercises.

Step 9: Strengthening


Maintain the Ideal scapula positioning throughout all of these Shoulder Impingement exercises.

Remember:

  • Tilt the shoulder blades BACKWARDS.
  • Pull your shoulder blades DOWN and AROUND the ribs.
  • Keep your shoulders long/wide.

… This is CRUCIAL!


1. Isometric training

This involves strengthening your shoulder muscles without moving.

This is to make sure that you do not aggravate the symptoms in your shoulder.

You can perform an isometric contraction in ANY shoulder position and in ANY direction.

Example: External rotation (with flexion)

Instructions:

  • Keep your elbows tucked to the side of your body.
  • Gently pull your shoulders back.
  • Hold a resistance band between your hands.
  • Pull the resistance band away from each other.
    • (External rotation)
  • Whilst maintaining the tension on the band, lift your arms up as high as you can with nil pain.
    • (Flexion)
  • Hold this position for 30-45 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

Note: Only push yourself as far as you are comfortable!


2. Dynamic exercises

Progress to these Shoulder Impingement exercises only if you are able to conduct the previous Shoulder Extension, Adduction and Internal rotation exercises easily.

Remember to:

  • Depress the humeral head throughout movement.
  • Maintain the Ideal scapula position.
  • Engage the Serratus Anterior.

a) External rotation

supraspinatus exercises

Instructions:

  • Anchor the resistance band at elbow height.
  • Stand sideways with the affected arm further from the door
  • Pull the band away from your body.
  • Aim to keep your elbow in contact with the side of your body at all times.
    • Think about squeezing a piece of paper between your elbow and the side of your body
  • Repeat 10-30 times
  • Perform 3 sets

b) Internal rotation

ir

Instructions:

  • Anchor the resistance band at elbow height.
  • Stand sideways with the affected arm closer to the door.
  • Pull the band towards your body.
  • Aim to keep your elbow in contact with the side of your body.
    • Think about squeezing a piece of paper between your elbow and the side of your body
  • Repeat 10-30 times
  • Perform 3 sets

c) Flexion

resistance band shoulder impingement exercises

Instructions

  • Stand on the end of a resistance band.
  • Pull the resistance band as high as you can comfortable go without pain.
  • Keep constant tension on the resistance band throughout movement.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • Slowly return the hand back to the body.
  • Repeat 10-30 times.
  • Perform 3 sets.

d) Abduction

abduction

Instructions:

  • Stand on the end of a resistance band.
  • Pull the resistance band towards the side as high as you can comfortably go without pain.
  • Keep constant tension on the resistance band throughout movement.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds at end range.
  • Slowly return the hand back to the body.
  • Repeat 10-30 times.
  • Perform 3 sets.

3. Weight bear exercises

a) Rock back

Instructions:

  • Assume the plank position with your knees on the floor.
  • Assume the Ideal Scapula Position.
  • Push your forearms into the floor.
  • Rock your body backwards as far back as possible.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Repeat 30 times.
  • Progression: Increased the amount of weight going through your shoulder by performing the exercise whilst on your hands and feet.

4. Strengthening in functional positions

What exact activity can’t you do because of your painful shoulder?

You need to find an exercise that will mimic the motion of doing this SPECIFIC movement/activity.


For example:

If you have difficulty hanging out your clothes on the clothes line… you can do the following exercise:

meaningful-task

Instructions

  • Stand on the end of a resistance band.
  • Assume the Ideal Scapula Position. (See Step 6)
    • This is to prevent you starting from a slouched shoulder position.
  • Aim to pull the resistance band as high as you can go without causing any pain.
    • (Experiencing a small amount of discomfort is fine!)
  • Keep constant tension on the resistance band throughout movement.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • Slowly return the hand back to the body.
  • Repeat 10-30 times.
  • Perform 3 sets.

Step 10: Address Posture

If you have been persistent with these shoulder impingement exercises and are still experiencing symptoms, consider addressing the following postural issues:


a) Rounded shoulders

Having Rounded Shoulders is when the resting shoulder position is in front of the mid line of the torso.

For more information: How to fix Rounded Shoulders

b) Thoracic Kyphosis

A curved spine will place the shoulders in an ineffective position to function.

For more information: Fix Hunchback Posture

c) Winged Scapula

winged scapula

A Winged Scapula is when the inner border of the shoulder blade protrudes off the rib cage.

The scapula is in a position of anterior tilt and downward rotation which can increase the chance of compression occurring in the subacromial space.

For more information: Winged Scapula Exercises

Common questions:

1. How often should I do Shoulder impingement exercises?

  • Aim for 3/week.
  • Start with 1/week.
  • Monitor and assess how the shoulder responds.
  • Adjust frequency accordingly.

2. How long does it take to recover from Shoulder Impingement??

It really depends!

There are many factors that will influence the time it will take for a full recovery.

Try to focus on consistent improvements.

3. Does the Cortisone injection help?

If you have already been to your doctor, then the chances are that they have already suggested that you get the cortisone injection.

This injection consists of a steroid (cortisone) and an analgesic substance.

The aim of the injection is to:

  • a) Reduce inflammation
  • b) Reduce pain
  • c) Create a “window of opportunity” to progress the exercises.

Sounds great in theory… right?

Yes, it does…

BUT – The problem is that it does absolutely nothing to address the underlying cause of the shoulder impingement.

More often than not – the injection may provide some short term relief, but only to have the pain come back at a later date (… and usually with a vengeance!).

My recommendation:

  • Persist with these shoulder impingement exercises for about 4-6 weeks.
  • If there is absolutely no improvement (… or if it’s getting worse), then it might be the next step to take.
  • It should NEVER be the first thing that you do.

4. Do I need Surgery?

My immediate answer: NO.

The reason behind this is that I have a strong belief in healing the body via conservative means.

Please give these exercises a chance before even considering surgery for Shoulder Impingement.

(Keep in mind – not all surgeries are successful!)

5. Are there any exercises to avoid with Shoulder impingement?

The main thing is to be very careful with over head movements.

These might include:

  • Shoulder press
  • Lat pull down
  • Hand stands
  • Arm raises above shoulder height
  • Downward dog position
  • Throwing
  • Climbing

Keeping your exercises below shoulder height should be fine.

5. How do you sleep with a Shoulder Impingement?

How do you sleep with a Shoulder Impingement?

Avoid sleeping on top of your affected shoulder as this will compress the painful areas.

sleeping position for shoulder impingement syndrome

Instead – I recommend sleeping on your back using pillows to support the weight of the arms.


What to do next:

1. Any questions?… Leave me a comment down below.

2. Come join me on the Facebook page. Let’s keep in touch!

3. Start doing the Shoulder Impingement exercises!

323 thoughts on “Shoulder Impingement Exercises”

  1. Hey mark!

    Maybe you can help me figure out why my right arm is twisted. When I stick both of my arms straight out to my sides with my palms facing down, my left inner arm / bicep is facing straight ahead. But my right arm (the shoulder with pain) inner arm / bicep will be facing almost straight down towards the ground. something isn’t rotating my right shoulder backwards like my left shoulder. would that be because of weak back / shoulder blade muscles?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hey Josh,

      If we assume that your shoulder blades are sitting on a neutral rib cage, I would say your right shoulder is internally rotate within the joint and/or the scapula is tilted anteriorly. This would rotate/orientate your arm so that the biceps is pointing more towards the ground.

      To address this:
      – Learn how to posterior tilt the scapula
      – Encourage more external rotation in the shoulder by strengthening the rotator cuff.
      – Stretch/release the internal rotators (subscapularis, lats, pecs, teres major)

      Mark

      Reply
      • Thanks for the advice Mark!

        In order to do a posterior tilt of my scapula, should my arms be moving a bit forward as my shoulder blades turn posterior? Or should my shoulder blades be moving downward?

        Also, for my specific internal shoulder and anterior scapula situation, do I want to be stretching or strengthening my serratus anterior? I know on your should impingement blog it says to strengthen it, but on your rounded shoulder blog it says to stretch it. How do I know which to do?

        Thank you!

        Reply
        • Hi Josh,

          When you tilt the scapula into a posterior tilt, you will want to keep the arms in a position where the upper arm is vertical. Think of the scapula movement as the beginning of a “back flip” as opposed to a pulling down movement.

          Strengthening the serratus anterior will always be good for scapula control and in fact will be used when you posterior tilt (esp the lower fibres). In some cases- you need to stretch and strengthen it!

          Mark

          Reply
  2. Hi Mark,

    Great Article. I have had left-side shoulder impingement for a couple months, but I have also had pain in my left-side mid back when I take a deep breathe in that has been there for almost a year. It seems to be right under the shoulder blade, and when I roll my shoulder, my left-side shoulder blade pops and hurts. My shoulder also makes loud popping sounds. I think this is because of weightlifting and swimming, but I’ve quit those and went to different physical therapist, but the pain is still there. Do you think whatever this pain is caused my shoulder impingement? And do you have any ideas what it could be? It’s really been infuriating me for a year and even with heat/ice therapy I’ve achieved no success.

    Thank you in advance,
    Alex

    Reply
    • Hi Alex,

      Torso position can definitely affect the shoulder function.

      For your left lower/mid back to hurt on inhalation, this might suggest tightness in this area. If it is only occurring on the on side (and in the absence of any traumatic injury), I would suspect that there may be a degree of rotation in the spine. (See post: Twisted Spine)

      The popping sensation as you move your scapula could be snapping scapula syndrome.

      Reply
    • Hey Philip,

      They are fine to do as long as you have adequate amount of internal rotation from an abducted position.

      Otherwise – face pulls could potentially increase impingement in the sub acromial space.

      Mark

      Reply
  3. Hi Mark
    Thanks for great website.
    I am Zahra 39 years old, my right shoulder is being painful since nine months. As I checked with your tests I think I have shoulder impingement. During putting my affected hand on opposite shoulder while arm is bent is painful. But I can lift and move my affected hand in all directions while it is stretched.
    Also sometimes is making sounds on my shoulder when it moved.
    As below some exercises that she has given me to Strengthen the shoulders and spine ( Because she emphasizes the weakness of my spine and shoulders muscles).
    I’m not sure these are harmless for my shoulder especially I have to do these exercises With 3 kg dumbbells.
    Thank you very much for your help.

    Reply
  4. Hi Mark! My name is Hanna, I am studying Personal Training with the Australian Institute of Fitness. I found your website while doing some research on exercises for clients rehabilitating a shoulder impingement injury. I love it! Very detailed and informative!

    I am hoping you could give me some advice in regards to prescribing warm up exercises for a client rehabilitating a shoulder impingement injury, I have a lot of good exercises already, I’m just unsure about the warm up! Thanks :)

    Reply
    • Hi Hanna,

      Warm up for shoulder impingement should involve the muscle/tendon that is getting impinged upon.

      For example- if the supraspinatus is getting squashed, you would want to incorporate external rotations from various shoulder positions and shoulder elevation in scaption plane.

      You will also need to stay away from any painful ranges.

      Other general things you could do would be scapular retraction + posterior tilts, pain-free shoulder circles, isometrics

      Mark

      Reply
  5. Hi Mark,

    Another Mark here. I got a bad inpingement doing pushups with terrible form. I am very fit/strong. I have seen my physio and my chiro. They both told me to do wall angels for the forseeable but it is not helping. The shoulder hurts but my upper traps and front of my neck are a constant 7.5 out of 10 on the pain scale.

    Reply
    • Hello Mark (great name btw),

      If the wall angels aren’t helping, you might need to strengthen whatever structure is being compressed. Most commonly (but not limited to) the Supraspinatus tendon.

      The exercises mentioned on this blog post might help with that.

      Pain in the front of the neck might suggest that you may have another injury other than the shoulder impingement.

      This will require an assessment by the physio/chiro to see what exactly is happening there.

      Mark

      Reply
    • Hey Mark

      Philip Isaiah here, came from your winged scapula post and i’m very thankful for the free advices online. Although I am really recovering, I just can’t stop my anxiety from spreading further from all of the things happening. Recently I started to feel stiffness in my front/anterior deltoid in my much more worse shoulder, and I just can’t help to stop being bothered by it. I still have 99% ROM but I try my best not to move my shoulder. Could this be a start of something dreadfully new?

      Reply
      • Hi Philip, There are many structures in the shoulder complex, all of which are inter-connected and reliant upon one another.

        It is common to have a few issues at the same time in the shoulder. (most likely due to compensatory patterns)

        Pain at the front of the shoulder is commonly long head biceps tendon. (But depends on exactly where you are experiencing the pain).

        You might need to do some specific exercises for the tendon involved as well.

        Mark

        Reply
        • I had shoulder surgery: supraspinatus suture and biceps suture. I did 80 physiotherapy sessions. I was left with a deficit of external rotation. What exercises do you recommend?

          Reply
          • Hi Khassir,

            You will need to determine exactly why you have limited external rotation in the shoulder (ie. pain vs tightness)

            A common culprit is a tight subscapularis. Did they address this muscle?

            Mark

  6. Hey Mark!

    I’m 40 years old. About 3 years I injured my shoulder from doing military presses in the gym. I was going particularly hard that day (regrettably). After that, I couldn’t reach my arm behind and scratch my back. I thought the pain would just go away after a few months or a year but it didnt. I still tried to get back into lifting weights although gently. Then almost 2 years after the initial injury, I seemed to aggravate it again. In addition to cant scratching my back, I couldn’t now lift or rotate my arm! After that, I went to a PMR doctor and I was diagnosed with mild bicep tendonitis. She suggested physical therapy and icing which I’ve been doing for several months now. I’ve increased my range of motion, but it seems only improvement mostly from the problems I gained from my second injury like lifting/rotating my arm. I still can’t scratch my back with my arm with lots of pain! Couldnt scratch my back for 3 years now. What can do to improve this? Seeing as I didnt see a doctor for 2 years from the initial injury, do you think it’s too late to fix or a permanent problem? That’s my biggest concern… Im worried but highly motivated to fix this. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hey Edward,

      Inability to scratch your back is likely due to limited shoulder internal rotation.

      This is commonly limited by issues of the posterior deltoid, posterior capsule, infraspinatus and teres minor. (located at the BACK of the shoulder)

      If this is the case, you will need to focus on specifically rehabilitating these structures in their elongated position.

      Given that your doctor assessed your shoulder and concluded that the biceps was the issue, I assume that your pain is in the front of the shoulder?

      If this is the case, You might have a lack of shoulder extension which might also be limiting your ability to reach behind your back.

      You will need to strengthen the biceps (I assume long head biceps tendon) in the lengthened position.

      It’s never too late to fix an issue. There is always something that you can improve upon.

      Mark

      Reply
  7. Hi, Mark. I dislocated my shoulder in 2016. Occasionally I get some pain but it goes away. Last week, something happened. Not sure what. Small movements cause lots of pain. If I lay on my back and bring my arm over my head, I physically cannot bring it back down. I don’t know what to do or what the problem is. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Hi Heather,

      It would be hard to say exactly what structure might be causing your said issues without performing some shoulder tests on you.

      Where exactly are you experiencing your pain? And what movements cause the pain?

      Mark

      Reply
  8. Hi Mark.
    As part of the Dynamic Exercises intro, you mention don’t try these unless you can do the ‘previous’ internal rotation exercises easily. I can’t find any reference to these. Please can you clarify?

    Reply
    • Hey John,

      Apologies. I had shuffled some of the exercises around and placed the internal rotation exercise in the dynamic section.

      Thanks for letting me know.

      Mark

      Reply
  9. Hi Mark,

    Hope all is well! First of all, thank you for the pictures and information! So, I started working from home April of 2020. I have a desk position. So I type and mouse most of my shift. At the time I did not have a stand up desk and opted to use a office chair from home. the office chair did not provide the same support as my ergo chair at work. it did not have much back support. I used a couple pillows for that. I used the office chair for about two weeks and sure paid the price. On a very busy day, my shoulderS started hurting. I know your first step is to stop doing what causes the pain, unfortunately cannot do that. It became worse and I spoke to my doctor who diagnosed me with bilateral shoulder impingement. I was able to bring my work chair home and have a stand up desk now too. It has been 3 months of this pain. Constant pain, not just at work. I am taking ibuprofen, fish oil, tumeric capsules. I will order the arnica cream today. I had been doing some of the similar stretches that you posted, but I will definitely do these posted. Since the pain is not going away, my doctor is advising a cortisone injection on each shoulder. I want a permanent fix, no a temporary one! Thank you in advance for your help.

    Reply
    • Hi Amy,

      Main thing for working from home is get your positioning correct.

      When sitting: Keep elbow by your sides, Bend your elbow to roughly 90 degrees. Look at your hand position.

      This is where your keyboard and mouse should ideally be. No other position! Do not flare your elbows out to the side.

      Otherwise – it is common to develop some shoulder issues (especially impingement)

      Start with the exercises mentioned on the blog post. They should help you nicely.

      Mark

      Reply
  10. Hey Mark, I’ve had this shoulder impingement for almost a year now and it only seems to get worse. I have an aching pain down the left arm and even into my hand. not really sure what to do and I feel stuck. my job requires heavy lifting so its hard to catch a break. I’ve finally dedicated myself to fix this problem so I can get back to lifting in the gym. any advice. also if it doesn’t hurt my shoulder would it be a problem to train in the gym. thank you

    Reply
    • Hey Trevor,

      If you have shoulder impingement, running through these exercises would be a good place to start.

      Sounds like one of your biggest challenges would be the flare ups due to work. You will need to get this under control. Otherwise – you will need to really focus on the strengthening exercises to increase your load tolerance of the shoulder.

      Gym exercises that don’t hurt your shoulder during and after are completely fine.

      Mark

      Reply

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