Rehabilitation & Recovery

11 Best Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Exercises For Shoulder Tears

rotator cuff tendinitis exercises

Your shoulder are the most flexible joints in your whole body. They allow you to reach, lift, carry, throw, and pull, making them essential for many daily activities.

From putting on a shirt in the morning to carrying your shopping, your shoulders are involved in nearly every activity that you do.

As the shoulders are involved in many activities, they are a common site of injury.

Over time, the overuse of your shoulders can lead to wear and tear, pain, and limited range of motion.

This condition is known as rotator cuff tendinitis, also known as rotator cuff tendinopathy.

If you don’t address it, rotator cuff tendinitis can worsen and lead to weakness, stiffness, and even permanent damage to your shoulder joint.

Recommended Reading – Bicep Pain After Rotator Cuff Surgery : 6 Critical Causes

Whilst shoulder tendinitis is common, the good news is that there are various tendinitis exercises you can do to treat your condition.

These exercises can be done at home or with the guidance of a physical therapist and can be an effective way to manage and treat rotator cuff tendinitis.

This article will explore the science behind this all-too-common shoulder injury and share some of the best shoulder exercises you can do for pain relief and strengthening.

What Is The Rotator Cuff?

rotator cuff muscles

Your shoulder joint is comprised of a network of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work in unison to provide mobility and strength.

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and all their tendons that surround the shoulder joint in order to provide stability. These muscles include:

  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres minor
  • Subscapularis

Together, these muscles form a cuff around the ball and socket joint of the shoulder, hence the name “rotator cuff.”

The rotator cuff plays an especially key role in activities that involve repeated overhead movements, such as lifting weights, certain sports such as swimming or certain jobs which involve reaching up overhead for example warehouse pickers, electricians and painters.

Since the rotator cuff is so important for shoulder function, injuries to this group of muscles can be particularly painful and debilitating.

Shoulder injuries are extremely common, with rotator cuff injuries even more so. In the next section, we will look at the most common type of rotator cuff injury : rotator cuff tendinitis.

What Is Rotator Cuff Tendinitis?

Rotator cuff tendinitis, also known as shoulder impingement syndrome or shoulder tendonitis, is a common condition that occurs when the rotator cuff tendons and muscles become inflamed and painful.

Due to excessive mobility of the shoulder joint, it favors this over stability meaning that overuse can cause this condition.

Rotator cuff tendinitis is different from a rotator cuff muscle tear.

A tear happens due to sudden injuries, such as a fall, excessive strain or an impact to the shoulder.

With a rotator cuff tear, it becomes difficult to extend your arm since one or more of your tendons have separated or torn from the bone.

Recommended Reading – 8 Worst Rotator Cuff Tear Exercises To Avoid

On the other hand, rotator cuff tendinitis happens with overuse over time. It leads to inflammation and irritation of the tendons in the rotator cuff.

Here Are Some Of The Symptoms Of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis:

  • Pain or tenderness in your shoulder, especially when lifting your arm.
  • Weakness in your shoulder.
  • Limited mobility or range of motion of your arms.
  • A clicking sound or popping sensation when moving your shoulder.
  • Pain that radiates down the arm.
  • Difficulty sleeping on the affected side.
  • Wrist pain can also be a sign of a rotator cuff problem.

Common Causes Of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

rotator cuff muscles

Overuse or Repetitive Use

Repetitive arm movements can cause inflammation and irritation of your rotator cuff muscles.

Activities that include such motions include lifting heavy objects, swimming, and basketball.

Hence, long-time athletes, weightlifters and even baseball pitchers are more prone to this injury.

Poor Posture

Slouching or hunching over can place excessive strain on the shoulders and contribute to the development of rotator cuff tendinitis.


As we age, shoulder movements can become more difficult, and our muscles and tendons become less flexible becoming more prone to injury.

This means older people are more susceptible to rotator cuff tendinitis.


A sudden fall or injury can cause acute rotator cuff tendinitis, especially if the impact is bad enough to create a tear in the tendon.


In some cases, an individual’s genetics may play a role in their likelihood of developing rotator cuff tendinitis.

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

If you’ve been diagnosed with rotator cuff tendinitis, there is some good news: the condition is treatable.

In many cases, healthcare providers recommend a combination of rest, medication, and a variety of exercises.

Resting your shoulder and taking medication can help alleviate pain and inflammation.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), for example ibuprofen or naproxen, are effective in reducing swelling and pain.

In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections may be recommended.

But the only way to fix rotator cuff tendinitis is through physical therapy exercises.

Rotator cuff exercises can help improve your range of motion, build strength, and alleviate pain.

The Types Of Exercises Include The Following:

  • Stretching to improve flexibility.
  • Resistance exercises to build strength.
  • Range of motion exercises to help improve mobility.

If your symptoms persist despite these treatments, medical intervention by way of surgery may be advised.

Surgery may involve repairing a torn tendon in some cases or removing damaged tissue in others.

But with early intervention, you won’t have to resort to surgery.

By incorporating regular exercises can help to alleviate rotator cuff issues by strengthening your muscles and tendons.

Recommended Reading – 5 Best Resistance Band Shoulder Exercises To Target Your Shoulders

Ultimately, the most effective treatment for rotator cuff tendinitis will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause of your condition.

Your healthcare provider can not only suggest the right treatment course but also guide you through some common rotator cuff tendinitis exercises.

The next few sections will provide a step-by-step guide for the three types of rotator cuff tendinitis exercises: stretching, strengthening, and range of motion. 

4 Stretching Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Exercises

Stretching exercises are an essential part of treating rotator cuff tendinitis.

They help improve flexibility and range of motion to the glenohumeral joint, which alleviates pain and reduces the risk of further injury.

Here are four stretches that may help relieve some of that pain.

Doorway Stretch

stretching exercises

Doorway stretches target the chest and shoulders, opening up your chest and improving flexibility in your shoulder joint.

Here’s How To Perform This Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Exercise:

  1. Stand in a doorway and place one elbow on a side of the door frame at shoulder height.
  2. Gently lean forward whilst keeping your arms in place.
  3. You should feel a gentle stretch across your chest and shoulders.
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  5. Release and repeat on the other side.

Cross-body Stretch

The cross-body stretch targets the rotator cuff muscles and the muscles around the shoulder blade.

It helps improve flexibility and relieve tension in the shoulder joint.

Here’s How To Perform A Shoulder Blade Squeeze:

  1. Raise an arm and extend it across your arm without locking out at the elbow joint.
  2. Use the hand of the other arm to hold your extended arm in place.
  3. Apply gently pressure to feel a stretch across the shoulder, do not force your arm as this could result in injury.
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  5. Release and repeat on the other side.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

This rotator cuff tendinitis exercises target the muscles between the shoulder blades.

It helps improve posture and alleviate tension in the upper back.

Here’s How To Perform A Shoulder Blade Squeeze:

  1. Start by either standing feet shoulder hip width apart or sitting.
  2. Raise both hands up so that your upper arms are parallel to the ground and elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  3. With your palms facing forwards, slowly move your arms backwards until your feel a stretch across your anterior deltoids.
  4. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then release.

Chest Stretch

The chest stretch targets the chest and shoulder muscles. It can greatly improve flexibility and reduce tension in the shoulder joint.

Here’s How To Perform A Chest Stretch:

  1. Start by standing side on to a wall.
  2. Extend the arm closest to the wall and place your palm at shoulder height flat against the wall.
  3. Your arm should be straight without locking out at the elbow joint.
  4. Keeping the extended arm in place carefully rotate your body in the opposite direction of the extended arm.
  5. You should feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders.
  6. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then release.

4 Strengthening Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Exercises

Strengthening exercises for rotator cuff tendinitis help build the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

This boosts the stability and support of your shoulder joint, reducing the risk of further injury.

Here are five strengthening exercises that may be helpful for individuals with rotator cuff tendinitis.

Banded External Rotation

This exercise targets the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles of the rotator cuff. These muscles are responsible for rotating the arm outward.

You’ll need a resistance band for this movement.

Here’s How To Perform An External Rotation:

  1. Place a close loop resistance band around each hand.
  2. Sit or stand with your elbows at a 90-degree angle and your upper arms close to your side.
  3. Rotate your forearms arm outward and away from your body.
  4. Hold for a few seconds.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 10-15 reps, then switch arms.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

Shoulder blade squeezes target the rhomboids and middle trapezius muscles, which help to stabilize the shoulder blades and improve posture.

Here’s How To Perform A Shoulder Blade Squeeze:

  1. Sit or stand with your arms at your sides.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  3. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

Wall Push-Ups

Wall push-ups are highly effective rotator cuff tendinitis exercises; they target the anterior deltoid muscles of the shoulders, as well as the pectoralis major and minor muscles of the chest.

Here’s How To Perform Wall Push-Ups:

  1. Stand facing a wall with your arms extended and your palms flat against the wall.
  2. Slowly lower your body toward the wall until your arms can support your weight.
  3. Then, push back up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

Scapular Retraction

This exercise targets the rhomboids and middle trapezius muscles, which help to stabilize the shoulder blades and improve posture.

Here’s How To Perform Scapular Retractions:

  1. Sit or stand with your arms at your sides.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades down and together as if you were trying to hold a pencil between them. You should feel a stretch across the front delts.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

3 Range-of-Motion Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Exercises

Range-of-motion exercises improve the flexibility and mobility of the shoulder joint, reduce stiffness and pain, and promote healing of the affected tendons and tissue.

Here are three range-of-motion rotator cuff tendinitis exercises.

Pendulum Arm Swing

This exercise targets the rotator cuff muscles and helps improve flexibility and range of motion to the shoulder joint.

Here’s How To Perform Pendulum Swings:

  1. Start by standing side on to a table or chair.
  2. Take hold of the table or chair or rest your forearm across it.
  3. Lean forward slightly and let your affected arm hang down towards the floor. Make sure this arm is completely relaxed.
  4. Swing your arm gently back and forth, side to side, and in circular motions.
  5. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions in each direction.

Arm Circles

Arm circles strengthen the muscles around the rotator cuff in addition to improving flexibility and range of motion.

If you have weak shoulders, you will likely perform in the lower rep range before it becomes uncomfortable.

Here’s How To Perform Shoulder Circles:

  1. Stand or sit with your arms at your sides.
  2. Slowly raise both arms up and out to your side so they are now parallel to the floor and at shoulder level.
  3. Perform small, circular motions with your arms.
  4. Repeat this circle motion for 10-50 repetitions, then reverse the direction.

Sleeper Stretch

This stretch targets the external rotator muscles of the shoulder.

It helps to improve flexibility and range of motion in the shoulder joint and alleviates pain and discomfort caused by rotator cuff tendinitis.

Here’s How To Perform The Sleeper Stretch:

  1. Lie on the floor and roll onto one side. Make sure the scapula of the shoulder on the floor is retracted.
  2. Support your head on something such as a foam roller.
  3. Bend your bottom whilst keeping your top leg straight.
  4. Bend the arm closest to the floor so it’s around 90 degrees.
  5. Your upper arm should be flat on the ground with your hand pointing up towards the ceiling.
  6. Take your top arm and place the hand just above the wrist of the bottom arm.
  7. Apply pressure and gently push your bottom arm down towards the floor until you feel a stretch in your shoulder.
  8. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.


Rotator cuff tendinitis exercises are a crucial element of your treatment plan.

Even if you don’t suffer from rotator cuff issues, incorporating the above suggested exercises into your workout can help prevent shoulder pain in the future and keep the joints supple and flexible.

Before you start any treatment plan, though, make sure to consult with your healthcare provider. 

Leave a Reply