Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Impingement Tendonitis

There are eight physical therapy exercises that can help with shoulder impingement tendonitis and I will be doing them for 3 weeks to see if I can lick this thing. Its been 5 days since my cortisone shot so its time to start my shoulder physical therapy. The doctor thought there was an 80% chance I would need surgery anyway but I wanted to give the non-surgical route a try. By the way, with all these exercises remember that the shoulder muscles are very small and you should be using small weights – ego lifting with these will send you to the surgeon. Any pain at all in these exercises is bad, either you should cease the exercise entirely or use a much smaller weight.

Three of these exercises I have done before, the main ones that I have found useful in the past are shown in this video:

For those who dont want to watch that video, the exercises illustrated in the above video are:

  • internal rotation
  • external rotation
  • reverse fly

The other five are new to me for shoulder rehab, here they are:

  • Supraspinatus – Starting position is with dumbbells hanging along side body. Ending position is dumbbells held with thumbs down at shoulder height and straight arms out at a 45 degree angle – like you are hugging the corner of a building.
  • Scapular Retraction – Lay face down on narrow bench. Grab dumbbells and lift. Elbows should be out to side, not down at your hips. Stop when elbows are even with the plane of your body. During whole exercise, squeeze shoulder blades together. You can also do this with tubing.
  • Shoulder Extension – Attach tubing to wall at face level. Starting position is palms down with both arms pointed to attach point. Slowly pull down while squeezing shoulder blades together
  • Scapular Protraction – Lay on bench with arms straight and vertical with dumbbells held in comfortable grip. Push dumbbells to ceiling with shoulders while keeping arms straight.
By the way, I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. If you have shoulder pain, you need to see a doctor! The reason I’m talking about these exercises is that they can be very helpful in preventing injury! Its worth adding these exercises to your shoulder workout to keep your shoulder healthy and injury free.
OK, time for me to do physical therapy!

21 thoughts on “Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Impingement Tendonitis”

  1. Hi Scooby,

    I would like you to post these extra exercises as a video just in case I still can’t get it right. With the Supraspinatus exercise I find moving to the pouring cup position results in weeks off waiting for shoulders to heal. I am 60 now when I was 55 I had to take a year off for rotator cuff injuries.

  2. I just had rotatory cuff surgery with part of my clavicle removed two months ago. I am going through formal physical therapy 3 times a week and at home I do the exercises 3 times a day. I was confused about one of the exercises (external rotation) and watched your video to make sure my form was proper. The idea of using the towel on my side makes a lot of sense and Friday I plan to ask my physical therapist if she thinks it would be good for me to try. She says I will be doing physical therapy for at least another year. I’m up to 2 pounds and 30 repititions now. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but after 4 years of not using my shoulder for ANYTHING, it’s quite an accomplishment. Thank you for posting the video.

  3. The supraspinatus exercise you should switch up and just keep thumbs up. Look up "Full vs Empty can" exercises. I am a physical therapist and empty can (thumbs down) use to be the preferred exercise. However, new research shows Full can (thumb up) to be more effective and produce less discomfort for the patient/client.

    Also to specifically target the supraspinatus be sure to stay in the plane of the scapula about 35-45 degrees

  4. Shoulder is a bitch, I got a tendonitis a long time ago and it took a long time till it healed and I have to be very careful not to injury it again. The wrists are another pain in the ass if you are not careful :(

  5. Hi,
    I myself am experiencing shoulder pain. I would really be grateful for videos of all of those exercises as I'm not native english speaker and I'm afraid I could screw them up just doing them from the description. Thanks for your great effort!

  6. Good point there, Scooby.
    Hey Andrew, one question, do you work in pharmacological industry? Because what you saying is promoting drugs. People, have you read whats written on the labels almost every drug? There's a long list of warnings, witch could happen to you, if you take this drug starting from nausea to heart attack.
    These are supposed to be side effects. I say that these are the effects, these are the bloody EFFECTS!
    Big pharma is most criminal and profitable business right next to narcotics and gun trade. I'm not saying that all drugs are bad, sometimes you just have to kill the pain, as they say. But people ahould be aware about dangers of drugs and just not swallow everything that commercials and doctors tell you.

  7. Gotta look at the big picture here. Pain killers are bad but surgery is worse. If I can avoid surgery by using anti-inflamatories for a month I'll do it. For me its about being as minimally invasive as possible.

  8. Scew that ibuprofen. One must always remember, that most of these doctors work for big pharma, i.e. they are drug pushers. If one can live without medication, he/she must do it.

  9. Keep it up scooby !
    I'm convinced you will be fine !
    By the way, watch out for cortisone shots, it can weaken your tendon and cause ruptures if you lift heavy weights.

  10. BTW, I have heard conflicting views on the use of pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs when injured.

    Some say that you should not take them because you could strain too much the injured part without realising it and get even more injured as a result. I must say that these are locker room and sideline conversations. I have never heard a doctor saying this.

    My doctor told me to take some Ibuprofen 40 mins before training.

  11. physical therapy is never fun. i just got done with my physical therapy not more then a week ago and have to do like 30-40 minutes of stretches and exercises just for my lower back.

  12. Hi Scooby,

    I had shoulder problems some time ago and those first three exercises you show – as also recommended by my physiotherapist – did the trick.

    On the Supraspinatus exercise you mention, could you give a little more detail please, if you have the time? I'd like to try it, but I'm having trouble visualising what you mean.


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