4 Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Impingement

physical therapy-shoulder pain

If your shoulder hurts when you reach above your head, you may be suffering from impingement. Try these four physical therapy exercises to find relief.

Many athletes suffer from shoulder stiffness and pain. If you participate in activities that involve repeated overhead motions, such as swimming, baseball, tennis, or weightlifting, you may be at risk of developing shoulder impingement.

This uncomfortable condition occurs when the tendons attached to the rotator cuff muscles become irritated and inflamed. Bone spurs may develop as well, resulting in painful “pinching” as the spur rubs against the rotator cuff tendons.

To alleviate the pain, you’ll need to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades and increase your range of motion. A physical therapist can show you how to perform these four at-home exercises to reduce your pain and prevent future injuries.


Lean your back against a wall with your head, shoulders, and buttocks pressed up against the surface. Position your feet slightly away from the wall so that you can lean your upper body back. Raise your arms to your sides at a 90-degree angle, and press them against the wall as well. Squeezing your shoulder blades together, slide your arms up the wall and out away from your body so that the elbows are bent only slightly. Then, retract your shoulder blades as you slide your arms back down your body as low as you can while keeping contact with the wall. Try this exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions to improve shoulder flexibility.


Stand with your arms at your sides. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle with your hands out in front of you, palms up. Keeping your elbow in contact with your body, shift your arms inward and outward. For best results, repeat 20 times. You should be able to complete this exercise without feeling any pain, but if this is not the case, you should stop and consult your physical therapist for alternatives.


Place the hand of your uninjured shoulder on a table or tall chair for support. With your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, bend forward and let your affected arm dangle below you. Then, shift your weight from side to side as you gently roll your arm in circles, backward and forward. Be careful not to use your shoulder muscles, instead letting your body weight move your arm. Repeat each motion 10 times or for about 30 seconds.


For this exercise you’ll need a theraband, or a resistance strip. Wrap the band around a doorknob and then hold it with both hands. Bringing your shoulder blades together, pull the theraband toward you in a rowing motion. Use your elbows to drive the motion, but be careful not to pull them back behind your body. Repeat the exercise 15 to 20 times.


If you are experiencing shoulder pain, you should avoid activities that require overhead motion while you recover and undergo physical therapy. Resting the affected tendons will speed up the healing process.

Weightlifters are particularly prone to shoulder impingement pain. Therefore, it is recommended that they refrain from any exercise that involves lifting weights above the shoulder, such as bench presses. This will give the tendons time to heal.


In addition to physical therapy, one option to treat shoulder impingement is minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. During this procedure, a small instrument is inserted into the shoulder joint. The surgeon then removes any bone spurs and repairs the rotator cuff tendons. Patients leave the office on the same day as the surgery, but are generally required to wear a sling for a few days before beginning physical therapy. A full recovery can be expected within six to eight weeks of surgery.

To discuss treatment options for your shoulder pain, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced physical therapists at All Sports Physical Therapy. You can book an appointment online or give us a call today.

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