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Rotator Cuff Exercises

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Rotator-cuff-exercises are designed to ensure optimal shoulder function by increasing strength and flexibility in the muscles of the shoulder joint and shoulder blade. These rotator-cuff-exercises improve the performance and reduce the risk of injury for many sports including golf, swimming, volleyball, racquet sports and throwing sports such as baseball and softball.


Rotator cuff muscles

The rotator-cuff group consists of four muscles - subscapularis, teres minor, infraspinatus and supraspinatus, which are positioned around the shoulder joint. These muscles are small but serve an important function. The rotator cuff attaches to the humerus (the upper arm bone) and helps lift the arm overhead. It rotates the arm outward or pulls the hand up behind the head. It also stabilizes the humeral head in the shoulder socket and keeps it in the proper position for good use of the arm. Unfortunately, because of its exposed position, it can easily be injured.

These muscles and tendons that connect your upper arm bone (humerus) to the shoulder blade allow a great range of joint motions. This makes the shoulder the most flexible albeit the least stable joint in the body. The shoulder socket does not hold the ball of the joint as firmly as the hip socket. However there are some rotator-cuff-exercises that help you prevent such injuries.

Rotator cuff injuries are very painful. As the rotator cuff fatigues from excessive use, weakness or lack of endurance, the ball of the shoulder joint becomes more mobile and moves upward. This causes the rotator cuff tendons to come in contact with the bone, which can lead to irritation of the tendon and subsequent inflammation and pain. Common causes of injury to these muscles are sudden impact, training with very heavy weights, repetitive overhead arm movements and improper posture.

Self care and exercise therapy aid in relieving this condition. An arthrogram shows a contrast dye that is injected into the shoulder joint. It helps in detecting leakage from an injured rotator cuff. Rest and anti-inflammatory medications can help in reducing the severity of the rotator cuff injuries. Sometimes steroid injections and surgery are resorted to.


Rotator cuff exercises for sportsmen

Rotator-cuff-exercises are of special significance to sportspersons. It helps them keep their shoulders and arms strengthened and plays a preventive role in avoiding injuries. The rotator cuff provides power and control for the golf swing, tennis stroke, baseball/softball throw and pitch and volleyball serve and spike. Described below are some general rotator-cuff-exercises that help you strengthen the muscles in your shoulder, especially the rotator cuff muscles.

Perform these exercises regularly to strengthen your muscles and prevent rotator cuff injuries. Ensure that these exercises do not cause pain. In case of pain, stop exercising and reduce the weights. Many rotator cuff injuries can be effectively rehabilitated by a correct exercise program, but this should always be initiated under the supervision of a physician and a therapist. It generally takes at least 6 weeks to gain good strength and flexibility through


Warm up exercises

Stretch your arms and shoulders and do pendulum exercises. For pendulum exercises, bend from the waist, letting your arms hang down. Keep your arm and shoulder muscles relaxed, and move your arms slowly back and forth. Perform each exercise slowly- lift your arm to a slow count of three and lower your arm to a slow count of six.

Now add the weights. Initially use lightweights till your body gets accustomed to it. Increase the weight gradually. Start with 2 ounces the first week, move up to 4 ounces the second week, 8 ounces the next week and so on. Keep repeating each exercise until your arm is tired.


Exercise 1

Start by lying on your stomach on a table or a bed. Put your left arm out at shoulder level with your elbow bent to 90 and your hand down. Keep your elbow bent and slowly raise your left hand. Stop when your hand is level with your shoulder. Lower the hand slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then repeat the exercise with your right arm.

Exercise 2

Lie on your right side with a rolled-up towel under your right armpit. Stretch your right arm above your head. Keep your left arm at your side with your elbow bent to 90 and the forearm resting against your chest, palm down. Roll your left shoulder out, raising the left forearm until it is at the same level as your shoulder. This is similar to the backhand swing in tennis. Lower the arm slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then repeat the exercise with your right arm.


Exercise 3

Lie on your right side. Keep your left arm along the upper side of your body. Bend your right elbow to 90. Keep the right fore arm resting on the table. Now roll your right shoulder in, raising your right forearm up to your chest. This is similar to the forehand swing in tennis. Lower the forearm slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. This needs to be repeated with the other hand.


Exercise 4

In a standing position, start with your right arm halfway between the front and side of your body, thumb down. Raise your right arm until almost level (about a 45 angle). This is like emptying a can. Don't lift beyond the point of pain. Slowly lower your arm. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Repeat this exercise for the other arm.

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