The shoulder joint is highly mobile and, because of this, it’s more prone to injury than many other joints in the body. Athletes who are involved in throwing and contact sports (baseball, football, hockey, etc.) are especially vulnerable, as are older individuals who suffer from arthritis.

While shoulder injuries are common, they’re also quite treatable, especially if you’re proactive about stretching and improving mobility.

If you find yourself dealing with a shoulder injury, be it a rotator cuff tear or a dislocation, these stretches can help you speed up the recovery process.

1. Crossover Stretch

This stretch is especially helpful for people suffering from rotator cuff injuries, as well as those who have chronically tense shoulders.

To do it properly, start by standing up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Raise your right arm so it’s in line with your shoulder, then cross it over your chest while keeping your shoulders pressing down. Use your left arm to gently hold the right arm in place, adding pressure to deepen the stretch if needed.

Hold this stretch for thirty seconds, then switch sides.

2. Standing Banded Row

Resistance bands are helpful for people who are recovering from shoulder injuries and don’t want to risk putting too much stress on their shoulder joint.

To do a standing banded row, start with a large, looped resistance band -- or tie the two ends of a regular band together to form a loop. Hook one end of the loop around a stable surface like a heavy table or doorknob. Hold the other end in your right hand, then step back to create tension -- there should be very little slack in the band.

Bend your right arm and pull the band back toward your body until your arm creates a 90-degree angle. Move slowly and with control as you bend the arm and straighten it back out. Repeat for 8-12 repetitions, then switch sides.

3. Internal Rotation

If you need help improving your shoulder mobility after an injury, this exercise is an excellent one. Attach the resistance band to a stable surface, just like you did for the standing banded row.

Pull the band back toward your body until your arm forms a 90-degree angle. Then, keeping the elbow bent, bring your forearm in toward the middle of your body. Return to the original position, then straighten your arm as you let the band go with control.

Repeat for 8-12 repetitions, then switch sides.

4. Chest Expansion

A lot of shoulder tension and potential for injury stems from the fact that most people spend the majority of their lives practicing less-than-perfect posture. Constantly hunching over a computer or cell phone can lead to tense, rounded shoulders.

Athletes who spend a lot of time working on their chest muscles (the “pushing” muscles) but don’t develop the muscles in the back body (the “pulling” muscles”) are also susceptible to rounded shoulders and tightness.

Chest expansion is a great exercise that counteracts tightness, improves posture, and decreases the risk of additional shoulder injuries.

To do this, hold a rope or yoga strap behind your back with both hands. Straighten your arms, pull your shoulder blades together, and lift your chin toward the ceiling -- avoid overarching your back, though, to feel the stretch primarily in your chest. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then release.

If you want to feel a deeper stretch, move your hands closer together.

Bonus Tips for Speeding up Recovery

In addition to performing these exercises on a regular basis, these bonus tips will help further expedite the recovery process:

  • Rest and ice your shoulder regularly
  • Wear a sling to aid the recovery process after dislocation and a brace to help with rotator cuff injuries
  • Use a compression bandage to counteract swelling
  • Try transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (also known as TENS) or ultrasound to stimulate the muscles and nerves and promote healing
  • Consider a cortisone shot if your shoulder is particularly resistant to treatment

 

Shoulder injuries can be painful and frustrating, especially if you’re sidelined from your favorite activity. If you keep these tips in mind, though, you can speed up your recovery and get back to doing what you love!

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