Rehab Exercises for Shoulder Impingement

Written by wesley tucker
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Rehab Exercises for Shoulder Impingement
Shoulder impingement results from traumatic compression to the joint's soft tissue, resulting in restricted range of motion.. (Shoulder stretch as part of a Thai body massage. image by Deborah Benbrook from

Shoulder impingement is often referred to as a "frozen shoulder." Traumatic impact to the joint results in soft-tissue damage. Although the tissue may not be torn, the injury can lead to the ball joint's restricted motion. Orthopedists may prescribe specific exercises intended to improve motion in all directions: up, down, back, forth and in a full circle. These exercises are only applicable to shoulder injuries with no traumatic soft tissue or bone damage. Always follow a doctor's direction when seeking relief from shoulder joint pain.

Overhead Extension

The first exercise involves some mechanical assistance and improves overhead extension. Using a C-clamp, secure a small pulley to an overhead door frame. Run a length of rope through the pulley that is long enough to reach a hand held down at one side of your body and about as low as the top of your head on the other side. The two sides should be even in length.

With your good arm, reach up and grab the rope while the hand connected to the impinged shoulder secures the longer half. Pull the rope down and lift the arm slowly. Repeat this action until the overhead reach of the injured shoulder is straight up. Lower the injured arm and repeat the motion. If the pain is too severe, work the arm up in several stages. Repeat the exercise daily for at least two 10-minute sessions. The pain will dissipate with time after the shoulder is freed from impingement.


This exercise improves forward and backward shoulder motion. A large rubber band is used to provide resistance to the motion. A doctor may provide the rubber band; they are also available from most chemists or other medical-supply retailers. The band is about four inches wide and when slack two feet in circumference. Instructions involve placing the rubber band on a doorknob of other secure location about waist high. Stand far enough away to pull the band taut without stretching.

Once in position, pull the impinged arm back, stretching out the rubber band. Pull through the pain. As the shoulder impingement is relieved over time, stand farther away and pull the rubber band to increase its length and tension. Repeat daily for two 10-minute sessions.


A simple exercise to start after three days of the overhead and pulling exercises is windmilling the arm throughout the day. Although at the beginning the pain may prevent a full circle, work to extend the arm straight and rotate the shoulder through a complete circle.

This exercise can be done as soon as you rise from bed, at any time during the day and at night before you fall sleep. Additionally, at some point you may want to add a slight weight--up to a pound--and hold it in your hand while you windmill the arm; this will improve muscle tone lost as a result of the arm being inactive for any period of time.

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