Shoulder Pain Relief Through Exercise

The shoulder is made up of three bones. These include the upper arm bone, known as the humerus, the shoulder blade, known as the scapula, and the collarbone, known as the clavicle. This area of the body has multiple joints combining with tendons and muscles to enable the arm’s range of motion. The shoulder enables your arms to move in many different angles, including scratching your own back and raising your hand. Shoulder pain is usually the result of tendon inflammation, instability, arthritis, a dislocation, or a fracture.

When you are experiencing shoulder pain, it might be your first instinct to limit any exercises that you are doing to prevent further pain. In most cases, performing exercises will help you with the pain you are experiencing, rather than make it worse. Of course, consulting a doctor first will ensure that you are performing the exercises in such a way that will strengthen and stretch the muscles rather than do any more damage. Many times patients are experiencing shoulder pain because of poor posture and improper training. Once your doctor has given you the go ahead, here are five exercises specifically formulated for shoulder pain relief:

  1. Push-Ups: Back to the basics, but push-ups are a great way to strengthen your shoulder muscles. Unlike other exercises like bench presses that lock the shoulder blades in place, push-ups enable the scapula to move freely. More importantly, they strengthen the shoulder muscles, making them more prepared to handle weight or other stresses placed on them. Certain muscles in the shoulder that are often weak because of lack of use are specifically strengthened by push-ups. When performing this exercise, make sure your back is fully parallel to the ground. Injuries and extra stress on the muscle can be incurred when push-ups are performed incorrectly.
  2. Shoulder Stretch: Stretching is just as important as strengthening. Keeping muscles and ligaments flexible makes them less tense and therefore less likely to be prone to injury. A simple but effective shoulder stretch involves standing up. Once you are standing, raise your shoulders and hold for five seconds. Next, squeeze your shoulder blades back and together and hold for five seconds. Then, pull your shoulder blades downward and hold for five seconds. Relax after the downward motion. Repeat the stretch at every angle 10 times.
  3. Pendulum exercise: This is a helpful exercise for patients experiencing shoulder pain in one shoulder. It requires the use of a chair. While standing with feet shoulder width apart, place the hand of the arm that has no pain on the back of a chair. The arm with the shoulder that is experiencing pain should hang down loosely at your side. Swing this arm gently backwards and forwards and in a circular motion. Do this about 5 times and repeat a few times throughout the day. This is a gentle way of using the muscles that are in pain, while keeping them moving and flexible.
  4. Door Lean: With the help of a door frame, this exercise combines stretching and strengthening, but is not suitable for those with shoulder impingement. (Shoulder impingement is a common cause of shoulder pain that results from overhead activity like painting or lifting.) While standing a few feet back from a doorway, place both arms on either side of the frame above your head. Lean forward slowly until you feel the front of your shoulder stretching. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
  5. Door Press: This exercise also requires the help of a doorframe. Stand in the frame with your elbow bent at a right angle with the back of your wrist against the frame. Next, try to push your arm outwards against the doorframe. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat three sets of ten with each arm.
    **Exercises adapted from Arthritis Research UK

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, reach out to your doctor before attempting to complete any exercises. Your physician will advise you of the best exercises for your specific presentation of symptoms.

At the Center For Musculoskeletal Disorders, our team is available to discuss your treatment options for those experiencing shoulder pain in New Jersey. Dr. Steven Horowitz specializes in alleviating pain for those suffering from shoulder pain. He is double board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Interventional Pain Management.