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Updated: Feb 2, 2022

Have you ever experienced discomfort on your shoulders after a long exercise? Studies show that restrictions in the shoulder external rotation may actually make your daily activities difficult because external rotation is needed, for instance, when you simply put your hands behind your neck and for women, doing a ponytail. Shoulder external rotation is when you rotate your shoulders outwards from the center of your body.

It is important to keep the rotator cuff muscles healthy and especially when exercising hard and in repeating movement with external load. For instance, when you do an overhead press, external rotation is needed. Sufficient external rotation in the shoulders helps to keep your shoulders healthy and improve your posture as well as the ability to reach and lift objects overhead. According to a study on overhead athletes, it was shown that strengthening the external shoulder rotator muscles, including the infraspinatus muscle, improves performance and helps to prevent injury. Increasing the strength and capacity of your infraspinatus can help to keep your shoulders healthy and pain-free when lifting overhead.

In physical therapy, the primary aim in treating shoulder conditions is to reduce pain and improve function and exercise rehabilitation. Technically, the goal of exercise as part of physical therapy management is to correct all possible modifiable physical impairments thought to contribute to pain and dysfunction, rather than to treat the pathology. Research and related studies always support that exercise has a useful role to play and incorporating loaded exercises is safe and not detrimental to the outcome.

Whenever you're doing shoulder exercises, there should be no pain or pinching. Performing these exercises can typically be done with 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps 2x/week. But take note that your Physical therapist will still perform a comprehensive history and medical evaluation and this could mean modifying your treatment plan to suit your needs.

Here’s an example of what we do here in Arise.

For the assessment of Shoulder External Rotation

  • Sit against the wall with a low back against the wall. start with shoulders and elbows at 90 degrees.

  • Lower arms down while keeping elbows and hands against the wall.

Now, here are some of the exercises that we do for our patients to fix their Shoulder External Rotation.

The Pec Release

  • Lay on the foam roller with arms straight out to the side.

  • If you need more of a stretch raise shoulders and elbows to 90 degrees hold for 2-3 min.

The Lat Release

  • Lay on the foam roller put armpit area shown on the roller

  • Find a tender spot and hold for 10 breaths.

You can also use a mini dumbbell to exercise those shoulders:

First, lay on your side and support your head with your hand. Next, slightly bend your hips and knees. Then, grab the dumbbell in your hand. Place your elbow on your side, around the crease of your hips, with your hand and the weight touching your stomach.

  • Slowly lift the weight up

  • Stop before your forearm is perpendicular to the floor

  • Slowly lower to the starting position

When doing this exercise, make sure you keep your elbow bent at 90 degrees the entire time. And you should only be rotating at your shoulder joint.

As mentioned above, there will always be modifications especially if you have some conditions that need to be addressed. So it’s still advisable to have a consultation with your physical therapist.

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