Do I HAVE To Do Rotator Cuff Exercises For My Shoulder Pain?
Today we’re going to cover the question of “do I need to do rotator cuff exercises to solve my shoulder pain?”
Shoulder pain is an incredibly common issue for lifters and other athletes. And because of this, a lot of people are told that they have to do rotator cuff exercises like banded internal and external rotations in order to actually solve their shoulder pain.
One of the most common reasons why people are told this is because somebody with shoulder pain will go see a physical therapist or other healthcare provider and they’ll do a form of strength testing called manual muscle testing, where they push and pull against that person’s arm to determine how strong their shoulder and rotator cuff are.
The issue with this type of strength testing is that it is actually wildly inaccurate and does not give a good representation of how strong that muscle actually is. On top of this, you can actually test weak without actually truly being weak.
When we have an injured body part, our brain and nervous system naturally down regulate the ability of that area to produce force. This is basically a protective mechanism to help that area heal up a little bit faster, and to avoid continuing to stress it during the healing process.
This downregulation of force production, without any actual muscle weakness, tricks a lot of healthcare providers into thinking that the person is weak when they’re testing them when they’re actually not.
Lastly, due to how the shoulder actually works, and how all the shoulder muscles work together to produce and control motion, the rotator cuff is actually pretty highly active during pretty much all shoulder motions. This basically means that pretty much all upper body exercises are a form of rotator cuff exercise.
Now don’t get us wrong, rotator cuff exercises can absolutely be a good thing for people with shoulder pain, and they usually do feel good when you’re dealing with shoulder pain. However, this is mainly due to the fact that the muscles of the rotator cuff are fairly small, and because of that, you can’t use very heavy weights when you’re actually directly training these muscles. Because you’re using such low loads during these types of exercise, it’s usually just not enough to continue to irritate the shoulder as you’re doing the exercises.
That being said, rotator cuff exercises can be useful tools when dealing with shoulder pain, but more so in the very acute stage or in severe cases of shoulder pain with the shoulder can really not tolerate much stress at all.
You can use these direct exercises as a great entry point to start loading the shoulder and then progress to heavier, more stressful exercises over time.
Outside these situations, modifying things for regular exercises such as tempo, overall volume, load, range of motion, the implement that you’re using, as well as your body or arm position is a great way to train around the injury and allow you to progress as your shoulder heals over time without having to do a ton of direct shoulder or rotator cuff exercises.
If you’ve been dealing with shoulder pain that’s affecting your lifestyle or your ability to train in the gym and you’re looking for expert help, click the link below to talk to one of our experts on a completely free phone consult.