Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(6):1315-1316

Before you start

The exercises described below (see Pictures 1 through 4) are to help you strengthen the muscles in your shoulder (especially the rotator cuff muscles). These exercises should not cause you pain. If the exercise hurts, stop exercising. Start again using a lighter weight.

Look at the pictures with each exercise so you can use the right position. Warm up this way before using the weights: Stretch your arms and shoulders, and do pendulum exercises. To do them, bend from the waist, letting your arms hang down. Keep your arm and shoulder muscles relaxed, and move your arms slowly back and forth. Perform each exercise slowly: lift your arm to a slow count of three and lower your arm to a slow count of six.

Now add the weights. Use a light enough weight that you do not get tired until you have done the exercise 20 to 30 times. Add a little weight each week (but never so much that the weight causes pain). Start with 2 ounces the first week, move up to 4 ounces the second week, 8 ounces the next week, and so on. Keep repeating each exercise until your arm is tired.

Each time you finish doing all four exercises, hold an ice pack on your shoulder for 20 minutes. It is best to use a plastic bag with ice cubes in it, or a bag of frozen peas, not gel packs. If you do all four exercises 3 to 5 times a week, your rotator cuff muscles will become stronger, and you will get back normal strength in your shoulder.

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