Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Tendinitis

The mild and habitual practice of stretching is fundamental for alleviating the pain caused by tendinitis and for recuperating as you gain flexibility and strength.
Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Tendinitis

Last update: 17 May, 2021

There’s tendinitis when a tendon becomes inflamed. Even those who seldom exercise can develop this painful condition that limits the movement of extremities. Can exercises for tendonitis affecting the shoulders help?

Contrary to what many people think, sitting still isn’t always the best remedy for physical conditions. The exception, of course, is when the doctor strictly recommends rest. For the rest of the situations, stretching and strengthening work is convenient.

What’s Shoulder Tendinitis?

A young man with shoulder tendinitis.

In this condition, tendon inflammation is accompanied by micro-fissures that prevent movement and rotation in the area where the tendinitis is located.

Tendinitis in the shoulder particularly affects the biceps brachii and four of the muscles belonging to the so-called rotator cuff: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.

Symptoms of shoulder tendinitis

These include pain during movement and at rest, as well as discomfort with pressure or cold stretching. The symptoms are more specific when there’s tendinitis in the rotator cuff muscles:

  • Pain in the lateral or posterior part of the shoulder
  • Immobility when trying to rotate or elevate the arm

Risk factors for shoulder tendinitis

Several factors lead to shoulder or glenohumeral tendinitis; the three main ones are:

1. Age


According to a Mayo Clinic publication, the risk of tendonitis increases with age. This is because tendons lose flexibility and become more vulnerable. Thus, it’s more likely in those over 40 years of age, especially in the elderly.

2. Mechanical factors

Your movements may also cause tendinitis. In this case, the elevation of the arm due to certain physical or labor-intensive activities, which implies an increase in the force of friction, and excessive use of the stressed tendon can result in the micro-trauma that causes it. As a MedlinePlus article states, it’s a common condition in those who play sports.

3. Vascular factors

According to a publication by Dr. Abellán Guillén at Universidad de Murcia, tendinosis and tendinitis could originate from vascular problems (i.e. of the circulatory system).

In this case, the infra and supraspinatus muscles are affected. Both muscles have zones of little irrigation in the tendon and are more susceptible to degenerative processes.

Exercises for shoulder tendinitis

A man exercising.


The objectives of a routine for patients with shoulder tendinitis are basically to reduce pain and increase mobility so that patients can perform normal tasks without pain. According to studies such as one published by American Family Physician, it’s one of the most effective treatments for tendinopathies, along with rest -when indicated- and the application of cold.

Furthermore, these exercises serve to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder, successfully stretch the muscles, and enable a safe return to activity. However, keep the following in mind before doing these exercises.

  • Start with gentle, slow, and controlled warm-up exercises. In the end, stretching the area promotes better circulation. According to a study published by Sports Medicine, warming up and stretching before and after exercise helps reduce the risk of certain injuries and post-exercise soreness.
  • You can do exercises for tendinitis with weights in the second stage. Keep in mind, however, that a specialist must indicate and supervise these.

1. Initial stretches

  • Standing up in front of a chair or table, lean your healthy arm on the edge of the object, and lean the chair or table forward
  • Your back should now be parallel to the floor and with your legs straight
  • Leave the arm with the injured shoulder hanging, as if it were a pendulum, and make little circles as if imitating a small clock
  • After twenty repetitions of the exercise, make little movements in the opposite direction. As you progress, enlarge the circles

2. Front stretch

  • Standing up with the back straight, use the hand of the injured arm and bring it up to the opposite shoulder
  • Take the elbow of the injured arm with the hand of your healthy arm and push the elbow up, creating a stretching sensation as much as possible without it being painful
  • Hold the stretch for a few seconds, lower it, and then do it again

3. Stretching with support


You can use a wall or the edge of a window or door for this exercise.

  • Stand up and support the hand of the injured arm with the hand of your healthy arm
  • Once you’ve positioned yourself, lean your body forward to perform a good arm stretch
  • Maintain this position for ten seconds, rest and repeat

4. Stretching with support and elevation

You can also use a wall or window for this exercise.

  • Lift your aching arm and support your hand over your shoulder
  • Exert pressure with the fingertips so that the palm detaches from the surface
  • Then, move your fingers up to raise your shoulder

5. Stretching with a band

If you don’t have a band (which you can purchase at a sports retail store, or at a rehabilitation center) you can use a towel or a cloth.

  • Place the back of your hand belonging to the injured arm on your back, while placing the other arm over your head
  • Hold the band between both arms
  • The arm above your head should gently pull upward towards the ceiling, which will then raise the other arm upwards

6. Strengthening with a rope


To correctly perform this exercise, it is necessary that you tie a rope to the wall or door. Also, you can use a band.

  • Lie on your side and take the rope or band with the hand of your injured arm
  • Make movements to the sides while stretching everything you can
  • The movement should be performed by the bicep since the tricep is “stuck” to the torso

Exercises for tendinitis should be supervised by a professional

Doctors helping a man stretch.

Ultimately, we must say it’s essential to consult a traumatologist, kinesiologist, or physiotherapist before doing these exercises. You’ll want to be sure they’re the most appropriate for you and also that you’re doing them correctly.

Once you have their approval, spend a few minutes every day on these exercises in order to feel the relief. Also, these exercises will help you prevent tendinitis and maintain flexibility and strength in this region of the body that you use so often every day if you don’t have it.

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