I’m assuming she’s not a baseball pitcher and, maybe not even a painter. But, most rotator cuff tears happen because of repetitive and/or usually forceful overhead movements. My guess is the tear was posture related, and, over time creating a significant muscle imbalance.
Focus on strengthening the postural muscles and stabilizing the scapula by strengthening the rhomboids, lower and middle traps. Most all upper body exercises should be extension exercises, try and stay away from pushing. However, there’s always an exception, strengthening the serratus anterior is a good idea too. When deciding on exercises, be aware of pain levels and the position and movement of the scapula…..
As Susan mentioned, see what her status was, if possible, just before leaving physical therapy.
Hope this helps.
Hi Heidi, the rotator cuff muscles are used to rotate the shoulder and arm. The muscles are easy to remember Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, Subscapularis. There first initial spell SITS. these muscles all attach to the Scapula. In short, if you are going to help strengthen these muscles, see what her PT was doing with regards to this. I know for these muscles to strengthened , light weight should be used and any movement she feels pressure ( as if the shoulder will pop out of socket ) should be avoided. Many PT’s use a 2 1/2 lbs dumbbell , have the client bend over and do a motion like they are writing a big 8. this does work many the rotators well. Go by how she feels with exercises such as abs and lower body. do watch the squat with her holding bar behind her head as this can be stress on the rotators. But it should be good to hold dumbbells at her side. This is a start and, I hope it helps. Good luck, Brian Rozzi Oh I meant bend over at the waist such as in the exercise rows.
Hi Heidi. I have written much on taking care of the shoulders – particularly since I too, as a former baseball pitcher and a current tournament tennis player have seen my share of shoulder problems. I do a fair amount of training with tennis players, throwers and other ‘overhead’ athletes on developing strong, healthy shoulders.
I think that you need to figure-out the extent of the tear from her physician, and any limitations that he/she and your client’s physical therapist recommend. Shoulder stabilization exercises, shoulder strengthening, and shoulder flexibility should all help your client in the long run, so long as they are performed progressively and with your client’s current limitations in mind. Once you’ve gotten some further understanding from your client’s health care providers about any limitations etc. I’d be happy to send you a couple of the articles I’ve written on shoulders (I wrote one for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and another for Tennis Life Magazine).
I am also an ex-shoulder problem person, and even though it’s been many years, I still have to be careful with what I do, particularly how much resistance I use.
The PT exercises are your first line of defense but progression after that really depends on the person and the degree of the injury. With shoulders there is a fine line between too much and too little. While the rotator cuff is often the victim, the cause of the injury (except for trauma) is often faulty posture over time. It is often the entire shoulder girdle that is unstable.
The core exercises I would watch carefully are planks and even something as seemingly as bird dog because they can show you how unstable the shoulder girdle really is.