Rotator cuff stretches should be a fundamental element of any rotator cuff exercise. Stretches are a fantastic preventative measure. Not only that, they are also a superb method for regaining complete range of motion.
I have always failed to understand why stretches are so seldom endorsed in the treatment of rotator cuff tear symptoms. They are, without doubt, some of the finest exercises for the rotator cuff.
Stretches have numerous benefits
- Provide a variety of exercises appropriate for all rotator cuff muscles.
- Work for a wide range of rotator cuff conditions.
- Anyone can do them.
- They can be performed almost anywhere and at anytime
- No specialist equipment is required.
Why incorporate a rotator cuff stretch into an exercise regime? Simply because stretching often brings a "double whammy" of benefits.
- Firstly, stretching encourages an increase in the range of movement that can be achieved.
- Secondly, it aids in the building of strength.
This is achieved by helping to lay down tendon fibers in an orderly manner. The tendon fibers become correctly aligned, meaning they stretch further and bond better, thereby increasing strength.
It is, for the reasons above that stretching and strength conditioning, when undertaken together, are so effective at improving muscle performance. If you only undertake one without the other you will be selling yourself short.
Follow the simple rules
Following some simple rules before and during exercise will ensure you perform stretches safely.
- Always warm up before hand, even just applying a heat pack or take a hot shower / bath.
- Stretch only to the point you feel resistance.
- Hold each stretch steadily for between 20 to 30 seconds.
- Do not over stretch - this can do much more harm than good.
- Breathe through stretches.
- Stop if you feel pain, a little discomfort is to be expected.
- Repeat each stretch 4 or 5 times.
- Have a rest between each stretch.
What is the best stretch to use?
"What is the best rotator cuff stretch?" This is a question I am asked all the time. Unfortunately there is no such thing. The rotator cuff is made of four separate and distinct muscles. That is why there is no general stretch that can impact each muscle equally.
Three excellent rotator cuff stretches are the wall climb, the overhead stretch and the door stretch.
- Wall climb - Stand side on to a wall approximately 9 inches away. Reach the near arm up the wall and place the palm of the hand flat against the wall. Now, gradually walk the hand up the wall using the fingers. Hold once a stretch is felt.
- Overhead stretch - Place your palms on the edge of a work top and gradually bend forwards at the hips to stretch.
- Door stretch - Stand in front of a door frame, hold an arm out to the side and bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Press your palm against the door frame and move forward to stretch.
Two slightly tougher examples:
- Stand upright and clasp your hands behind your back. Keep your arms straight and lift your hands slowly upwards.
- Stand with your arm out to the side at 90 degrees and your forearm pointing up at 90 degrees. Hold a stick in your hand and let it hang behind your elbow. With the opposite hand, slowly ease the bottom of the stick forward - not too hard, mind! Take it real easy with this stretch; a large strain can be exerted.
Which ever rotator cuff stretches you use can only benefit you long term. You really can do this - everyone can! Just make sure you follow the simple rules.
Steve Kaiser has used exercise to treat his own rotator cuff symptoms. Learn how you could do the same at Rotator Cuff Therapy Exercises.
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