3 Easy Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Impingement

A woman with shoulder impingement pain

Nearly one in 10 Americans struggle with shoulder impingement pain on a regular basis. This shoulder injury usually stems from poor shoulder posture habits and overuse during activities where the arms are above the head, which causes frequent pinching of the rotator cuff tendon.  

Shoulder impingement causes pain and reduces the range of motion in the shoulder. If you struggle with shoulder pain and stiffness, your physical therapist can help you understand your shoulder injury and develop a therapeutic exercise regimen that can help you improve range of motion and get pain relief. 

NOTE: The following three exercises can help people with shoulder impingement or other shoulder injuries and they can all be done at home or at the office with little equipment or preparation. Before you try these, however, there are three essential points to remember: 

  • Using correct form and posture is essential to getting the most benefit from each exercise and to prevent the injury or pain from worsening. Please visit with your physical therapistfirst to determine whether these or other exercises and stretches may be appropriate.
  • If you experience pain during any of these exercises, stop doing them and see your physical therapistfor assistance.
  • If you are experiencing shoulder pain right now, don’t wait to seek treatment. Untreated shoulder impingementcan lead to further shoulder injury.
  1. Shoulder Blade Squeezes

This is a very simple exercise you can do several times a day to help you improve your shoulder posture and positioning. This is absolutely essential for cases of shoulder impingement, as the rotator cuff tendon gets pinched because of incorrect posture and form. 

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed, arms hanging down.
  2. Gently pull your shoulders back, trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together and a little bit down.
  3. Try for a set of five repetitions a few times a day. 

This exercise will help you become more aware of your posture. Your physical therapist can evaluate your posture from behind while you perform this exercise to make sure that you’re getting a good shoulder blade squeeze and that you’re performing it correctly.

  1. Shoulder Towel Stretch

This is another simple exercise that requires a piece of equipment you probably already have: a towel.

  1. With your good arm/shoulder, hold a towel behind your head, with the towel hanging down your back.
  2. Reach behind your back with the affected hand/arm/shoulder and grab the other end of the towel at about the small of your back. Hold on securely.
  3. Now gently use your good arm to raise the affected arm up your back for five repetitions.

This is another exercise that helps correct shoulder posture while helping with your range of motion. You can try this one a few times a day as well.

  1. Pectoral Stretch in the Doorway

Go to your nearest doorway and try this one:

  1. Put your hand on the doorjamb just below shoulder level.
  2. Gently turn your body away from the hand holding the doorjamb until you feel your pectoral (chest) muscles stretching.
  3. Hold this pose for about 15 seconds and repeat 5 times. 

This is a good, functional stretch for both shoulders, not just the one with the injury. It’s a good idea to try for balance in all of your exercises. You can try doing this one with your hand at different levels on the doorjamb. You’ll likely notice that the higher you place your hand, the harder this exercise will be. 

Again, your physical therapist can provide personalized advice on this and other shoulder exercises.

Care First Rehab in Cary, NC provides on-location and clinic therapy services including physical, occupational, pediatric, speech, massage, sports injury and more. Contact Pragati Sonker at (919) 460-1921 to schedule your therapy appointment.