The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles surrounding the shoulder joint which play a crucial role in the function and stability of the shoulder. Muscle tears and tendon inflammation are two common injuries of the rotator cuff which can occur through a variety of causes including sporting incidents, falls, repetitive overhead activity or lifting heavy objects. Whilst they can become increasingly prevalent as we age, there are many exercises we can do to prevent the risk of sustaining a rotator cuff injury.
One simple but effective strategy to strengthen the rotator cuff is through resistance band exercises.
Here are three banded exercises to try:
1) Side raises – Stand on the band with both feet and hold the handles of the band with your hands. Start with your arms down at your sides and then slowly raise your arms out to the side, keeping your elbows slightly bent. As you lift your arms, you should feel the tension in the band increasing and your shoulder muscles working. Hold the position briefly and then slowly lower your arms back down to your sides.
2) External rotation – loop a resistance band around a stable object at elbow height. Stand sideways to the band and grasp the other end with your hand, elbow bent to 90 degrees. Rotate your forearm away from your abdomen, keeping your elbow at your side. You can also use a towel between your body and your elbow as demonstrated in the image.
3) Internal rotation – hold the band in the opposite hand from the last exercise, and hold your elbow at 90 degrees, with your hand near your opposite shoulder. Rotate your forearm toward your abdomen, keeping your elbow at your side.
Incorporating these exercises into your workout routine is a smart way to keep your rotator cuff strong and injury-free, whilst they will also help with maintaining good posture. As a guide, you should aim to perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise. However, if you are someone with a current rotator cuff injury, it is recommended to consult first with a health practitioner as you could make the injury worse by doing too much too soon. The osteopaths at Blackburn Allied Health Group can provide hands on treatment and an individually tailored exercise program appropriate to the stage of the injury which will also suit your current functional capacity.