“No pain, no gain” is what you tell yourself as you push through that shoulder workout despite the worsening pain. This saying has become popular in our society and I am here to explain why this is simply not true for most shoulder injuries. The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that stabilize your shoulder and this muscle group is commonly injured. There can be a wide variety of rotator cuff injuries but most can be successfully rehabbed with physical therapy.
When you injure your shoulder or simply feel a loss of mobility with increased pain, this can be indicative of a strain, tendinitis or shoulder impingement. In this scenario, you do not want to push past the pain with exercises. Usually there is some inflammation or muscle weakness that is causing the motion to be limited. If you do not listen to the pain that occurs with movement, this inflammation won’t decrease and you can get stuck in a cycle of reoccurring shoulder pain.
When we initiate shoulder rehab, we want to find a way to restore the normal range of motion and begin strengthening the affected muscle. This doesn’t take much and it won’t feel like an intense workout. It is important to avoid painful/aggravating exercises and movements as we don’t want to cause any further inflammation. There are some effective ways to get enough muscle activation to begin the strengthening process while also decreasing pain. Isometrics and slow tempo loading are very effective at this.
Here are some examples of the exercises found to be most effective when initiating rehab for a rotator cuff strain or shoulder impingement. These are the "baby" exercises and once pain free range is restored, you'll need to progress to much more advanced rotator cuff exercises to return to 100%. All of these exercises
should be relatively pain free. The goal is to provide light activation to the rotator cuff and begin the healing process. As always, consult with your physical therapist or physician if you sustain an injury and want proper treatment for your specific case.