How to Rehab and Strengthen a Shoulder Injury

Shoulder injuries are fairly common and often occur due to weightlifting, sports, and even ordinary activities such as hanging wallpaper, washing or painting walls and other forms of physical labor with repetitive overhead motions.

In 2006 alone, an estimated 7.5 million people suffered shoulder injuries with over 4 million of those suffering rotator cuff injuries.

Certain symptoms accompany shoulder injuries and if you experience any of them you should seek advice from your doctor.

You may have a shoulder injury if:

  • Your shoulder is stiff and you find it difficult to rotate  in all directions
  • Your shoulder easily pops out of socket
  • You experience unusual or prolonged pain in the shoulder
  • You lack sufficient shoulder strength to complete routine activities

Shoulder injuries can often be treated through rehabilitating exercises that strengthen the shoulder muscles and help to protect the underlying joint and tendons. Utilizing heat, ice packs and rest may help reduce swelling and offer some pain relief. Sometimes, surgery is required and afterwards an exercise program is administered by a physical therapist. Medications such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatroy drugs) may be a prescribed as part of the healing process.

Shoulder injuries and how to treat them through shoulder exercises:

Rotator Cuff Injury

The rotator cuff is the main shoulder component and is made up of various tendons and muscles which keep the shoulder joint in place. These shoulder muscles allow you to reach your arm over your head. When the rotator cuff is injured, you may experience difficulty, weakness, or severe pain when making shoulder movements.

Labrum Injury

The ring of cartilage that is attached to the socket of the shoulder and is used to extend the arm is called the labrum. It stabilizes the shoulder joint and is an anchor for bicep tendons. The labrum can be torn by overuse or a traumatic injury. When your labrum is injured, you may experience sharp pain in the shoulder, instability, or a popping or clicking sound.


Tendinitis occurs when there is swelling, inflammation and irritation of the shoulder tendon which is a fibrous material that holds shoulder muscles to the surrounding bone. Tendinitis is a result of the overstretching of the tendons from overuse, injury, aging, or disease (such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis). The symptoms of tendinitis include aching (especially at night), tendon pain or tenderness when not in use and worse pain during activity.


Bursitis results when the cushioning pads holding fluid between your shoulder muscles, joints and tendons become injured and inflamed. Symptoms of bursitis include a stiff and achy shoulder, pain when the area is pressed with your fingers, or the area looks red and swollen.

Effective common exercises for strengthening the shoulder muscles:

Dumbbell Exercises

You should be aware that the dumbbells utilized in these shoulder exercises should be light weight (around 2-3 pounds) so as not to further damage your shoulder or create muscular imbalance by building the larger muscle groups. The idea is to strengthen the muscles of the injured shoulder and nothing else.

Prone Elevation –
  • Lay face down on a table or other flat surface that allows you to hang your arm over the edge without touching the floor. Hold a lightweight dumbbell with your arm hanging down towards the floor and your thumb turned to the side at a 45º angle. Raise your arm slowly as if you’re going to lift it over your head only stop before it is parallel with your body which can impinge your rotator cuff. Lower and repeat.
  • From the same position as above only with your thumb facing forward, raise your arm slowly straight out from your side, stopping when it is parallel with your body. Lower and repeat.
Prone Row with Rotation –
  • From the same position as above with thumb pointed forward, you want to make a rowing motion. First, raise your elbow up until it is in line with the shoulder and with your forearm still pointing to the floor. Now, rotate your forearm up towards your head and stop when it is slightly below parallel with your body. Lower the forearm back down and then lower your complete arm back down to complete one set. Repeat.
External Rotation from Your Side –
  • Lie on your side with the arm holding the dumbbell resting on your top side and your forearm and hand resting on your stomach. You can place a towel under your elbow for greater comfort. Rotate your forearm up slowly until it is just above the horizontal plane. Lower and repeat.
Standing Elevation –
  • From a standing position with feet shoulder width apart, hands holding dumbbells down at your sides and thumbs pointing out 45º, raise your arms up slowly until your hands are just above your head. Lower and repeat.

Exercises Using Fitness Bands

Just as with the dumbbells, use exercise bands that are of light weight.

Fitness Band Rows-
  • Attach the fitness bands to a secure object at chest level. Hold the other ends in each hand (thumbs together) with arms held straight out in front of you. Slowly perform a backward rowing motion ensuring that your elbows are held out and away from your body. Finish the motion by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release and repeat.
Fitness Band Horizontal Abductions –
  • With the exercise bands in the same position as above, hold the other ends with each hand (thumbs pointed up) and arms straight out in front of you. Pull the bands slowly out and away until your arms are straight out at your sides and forming a line with your shoulders. Again, squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end of the move. Release and repeat.
Fitness Band External Rotation –
  • Lower the exercise bands to stomach level. Stand sideways with your outer arm’s hand holding the fitness tube against your abdomen. Your arm should form a 90º angle. While holding the upper portion of your arm against your side, slowly move your forearm out and away from your body until it is pointing forward. Hold this position for several seconds, release and repeat.

Get Excited About Fitness. Get Moving on Your Goals.

  • It’s Time

  • It’s All on You

  • The Process Creates the Prize

  • Give to Receive

Take the 45 Day MP45 Workout Challenge