Shoulder Impingement Exercises

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome is a condition that causes severe discomforts and can interfere with various daily activities. Know about various back and shoulder blade exercises for this problem, along with appropriate pictures to guide you.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Definition

It is a problem that sometimes arises due to the tendons and muscles of the rotator cuff getting pinched or caught by some bony structure in the shoulder. Injuries like Shoulder Tendonitis and Bursitis can also lead to Impingement Syndrome .This condition can interfere with the daily activities that involve swinging of the arms. An individual with Shoulder Impingement also faces difficulty in taking part in various sports like golfing and swimming.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Treatment

It is possible to treat the condition aggressively with surgery. However, various rehabilitation exercises are used for curing Shoulder Impingement more conservatively. Physical therapy is the best treatment option for the Impingement Syndrome. One can do these exercises easily at home and they help to heal the pain within a short time. Performing yoga also helps to cure Shoulder Impingement.

Severe cases of the condition have to be treated with surgery. There are many exercises that one can perform after surgery to improve the shoulder mobility and reduce the recurrence chances of the injury. It is important to follow the instructions of the physician about the appropriate exercises for the post surgery phase as doing wrong exercises can worsen the condition of the recently treated shoulder.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Workouts – Strengthening and Rehabilitation

The Shoulder Impingement rehabilitation program consists of range of motion exercises. These stretching and strengthening exercises help to regain the strength and mobility of the injured arm and shoulder. The following exercises are most commonly recommended for people suffering from Shoulder Joint Impingement:

Range of Motion Exercises

These include:

Postural Exercise

It helps to regain the stability and range of motion of the affected shoulders. First, the patient will have to decide whether he or she is comfortable in the standing position or the sitting position. It is important to keep the shoulders straight with the arms hanging at the sides. Once the patient is ready, he or she has to extend the arms behind him or her and pull the shoulder blades gently back and down. The individual has to continue in this position for 5 seconds before relaxing the arms and shoulders. This exercise has to be repeated five times each hour.

Arm Swing or Codman’s Pendulum Swings

Arm swinging exercise is also very useful for re-establishing a complete range of motion and it does not cause any pain. To do this exercise, the patient has to bend his or her upper body to the legs at a 90 degree angle, making sure that the back is still straight. One can hold on to a chair’s back for support with the undamaged arm if necessary.

Image of Arm swinging Exercise

Picture 1 – Arm swinging Exercise

The injured arm has to be allowed to hang freely toward the floor. Now, the individual has to swing the affected arm clockwise in circular motion for fifteen seconds with slowly increasing the circle’s size. The movement has to be repeated in a counter-clockwise manner.

Pretzel Twist

This exercise helps in stretching and strengthening the shoulders. To do this exercise, one has to reach the injured arm over the opposite shoulder and then grab the injured arm’s elbow with the other hand. Now, he or she has to pull the elbow gently with the hand toward the good side and hold in this position for ten seconds. The process has to be repeated; but, this time one has to reach behind the head with the injured arm. Finally, the injured arm has to be stretched behind the back and pulled toward the good side by the hand of the uninjured arm. The first movement of this exercise is known as Horizontal Adduction Stretch while the second one is called Triceps Stretch. One should repeat these three movements 3 to 5 times every hour.

Corner Stretch

In this workout, an affected individual has to stand facing the corner of a wall before abducting the shoulders and flexing the elbows at a 90 degree angle while slowly leaning into the corner. This exercise also requires the stretching of the chest and the front of shoulders. The patient has to continue in this position for 5 to 7 seconds and repeat the whole process 5 to 10 times.

Standing Adduction Stretch

This exercise requires reaching behind one’s back with the injured arm and grasping its elbow with the across the back with the good hand. Then, one has to pull the injured arm towards the good side of the body and hold in this position for 5 to 7 seconds. The process should be repeated 5 to 10 times.


To do this exercise, one has to grasp a door-frame with both the arms at the shoulder level. Then, he or she has to lean away from the door slowly while stretching the shoulder muscles and chests. This is a useful exercise for Shoulder Impingement Syndrome.

Internal Rotation

First, the patient has to stand straight with shoulders abducted to a 90 degree angle. Then he or she has to place a long stick or t-bar behind the upper arm and hold the lower part of the stick with the injured hand. Now he or she has to pull the bar with the good hand, forcing the affected arm to move back and up. This position has to be held for 5 to 7 seconds.

External Rotation

This exercise is quite similar to the previous one. But, in the External Rotation one has to grasp the upper part of the t-bar with the injured arm while the bar is pulled by its lower side with the good hand.

Strength Enhancing Exercises

These involve:

Active Flexion

For this exercise, the patient has to stand straight with the elbow extended and the thumb facing forward. Now, the injured arm has to be raised upwards as high as possible. He or she has to hold this position for a few seconds before relaxing. One can repeat this whole process as many times as directed by the physician.

Active Abduction

At the beginning of this exercise, an individual has to keep the elbow of the affected arm straight with the thumb pointing out. Now, he or she has to raise the arm outward as high as possible to the body’s side and hold for a few seconds. Repeat the exercise as directed by the physician.

Supraspinatus or Empty Can

This is one of the most important exercises for curing Shoulder Impingement. For this exercise, the individual has to stand with the elbows straight while the arms are rotated inward with the thumbs pointing down.

Picture of Empty Can Exercise

Picture 2 – Empty Can Exercise

Now, the injured hand has to be raised to the eye level at a 30 degree angle to body. It is never advisable to raise the hand above the eye level. The patient has to hold the hand in the raised position for a few seconds before lowering it and repeating the whole process.

Prone Extension

The patient has to lie face down on stomach with injured arm hanging toward the floor. The injured arm and thumb has to be rotated as far as tolerable and then raised toward the hip. However, one should never raise the arm higher than the floor’s parallel.

Prone Horizontal Abduction

To do this exercise, one should first lie face down on a table. Then the injured arm has to be rotated in the outward direction before raising it to the side as high as possible. Like in the previous exercise, it is not advisable to raise the arm higher than the parallel level to the floor. The individual has to hold the raised arm in this position for a short time before lowering it.

Supine Internal/External Rotation

The patient has to lie flat on a table or the floor with the shoulders abducted to a 90 degree angle, the arms on the floor or table surface and the elbows flexed.

Picture of Supine Internal Rotation Picture

Picture 3 – Supine Internal Rotation

Now, the injured arm has to be raised upward and held in this position for one to two seconds before it is lowered. One should try to place the hand on the table with the palms down when lowering the arm on the floor.

Supine Triceps Extension

The patient has to lay flat on the table with the affected elbow bent near his or her head. The hand of the injured arm should be rested on the good shoulder. Now, the elbow has to be extended very slowly as straight as tolerable without moving the upper arm. This process has to be repeated as many times as told by the physician.

Towel Squeeze

First, a towel has to be folded into eighths and placed between the chest and injured elbow. Now, the individual has to try to squeeze the arm as tightly as possible against the towel with the forearm folded in front of the body at a 45 degree angle. This isometric contraction has to be held for five to ten seconds before relaxing the muscles.


Other strengthening exercises for Impingement Syndrome include Biceps Curls, Bent over Rows, Seated Dips and Shrugs. All these workouts and stretches help to completely cure the pain and discomfort caused by the condition. The Internal Rotation, External Rotation and Supraspinatus exercises can be done with or without exercise bands or therabands. Care should be taken not to injure the shoulder further while doing these exercises.

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