Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy Stretches & Exercises – Ask Doctor Jo

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Rotator cuff tendinopathy can cause pain and tenderness in the shoulder joint especially when you are reaching overhead, behind your back, lifting something, or sleeping on the side that has the tendinopathy. These stretches and exercises should help. See Doctor Jo’s blog post about this at: Like my t-shirt? Visit for more info.

The first stretches are called pendulums. Use a chair or counter top for balance, and lean over so your arm hangs down towards the ground. Move your body, not your arm in circles so your arm swings around like a pendulum. You can also rock front to back and side to side. Start off with 10 of each and work your way up to a minute of each.

Then grab a cane or PVC pipe so you can move your arm and shoulder passively. The arm just goes along for the ride. You are moving the cane with your good arm up and down taking the other one up with it without actively moving your injured arm. Standing up or sitting, take the cane, stick, or a towel with your good arm, and drape it back behind your shoulder. Grab it below and behind your back with the arm to be stretched. Gently pull upward with the good arm, pulling the bad arm up the back. You can hold this for 30 seconds, repeating 3 times, or you can pull it up and down 10 times continuously.

Still using the stick, now lie down on the ground with your arms in the “stop sign” position. Move the stick with your good arm up and back over your head, and let the bad arm go for a ride until you feel a good stretch. You can do a little pause, or hold these for 10-15 seconds.

For the next exercise you will lie down on your side, and the arm you want to work will be on the ground for internal rotation. This time put your arm slightly in front of you, so you are not lying on your arm. Keeping that 90 degree angle at your elbow, and your forearm out in front of you, bring your forearm up to your stomach, and then slowly come back down. Start off with 10 of these, and then work your way up to 20-25. If that becomes easy, you can add a soup or vegetable can, or a hand weight if you have one.

Now you will do a shoulder external rotation. Try to keep your elbows by your side through out the exercise. If you want to roll up a small towel and place it between your side and your elbow for each side, this will keep your arms close to your side through out the exercise. Keep your elbows at about a 90 degree angle and your thumbs up towards the ceiling. Also try to keep your wrists in a neutral position. You don’t want to over stress your wrists, and then have a wrist injury. Slowly pull both arms out away from each other keeping your elbows at your side, and then slowly come back in. Start off with 10 of these, and then work your way up to 20-25. If that becomes easy, then move up with resistive bands.

The next exercise is going to be rows or scapular retraction. You can use your feet as an anchor. You want to keep your elbows in close to your body and make a rowing motion. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together when you pull back. Make sure you are using a slow controlled motion.

Finally you are going to do punches or scapular protraction. Wrap the band around you, and keep your arms straight in front of you. Punch forward, but try not to bend your elbows.

Related Videos:

Rotator Cuff Exercises & Stretches with Resistive Bands:

Rotator Cuff Exercises Shoulder Injury Rehab:


Doctor Jo is a Doctor of Physical Therapy.


Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy Stretches & Exercises:

PRODUCT PLACEMENT DISCLAIMER: This video represents the honest opinions of Doctor Jo. Thank you to All Passion Gifts for sponsoring this video and providing Doctor Jo with a free t-shirt to wear.

DISCLAIMER: This content (the video, description, links, and comments) is not medical advice or a treatment plan and is intended for general education and demonstration purposes only. This content should not be used to self-diagnose or self-treat any health, medical, or physical condition. Don’t use this content to avoid going to your own healthcare professional or to replace the advice they give you. Consult with your healthcare professional before doing anything contained in this content. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless Ask Doctor Jo, LLC and its officers for any and all losses, injuries, or damages resulting from any and all claims that arise from your use or misuse of this content. Ask Doctor Jo, LLC makes no representations about the accuracy or suitability of this content. Use of this content is at your sole risk.

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AskDoctorJo says:

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Boss Mirou says:

Should I do it everyday ?

Parmod Kumar says:

I am suffering rotator cuff injury doctor suggested me surgery but i have no too much pain what i am do please doctor jo madam please reply i am a indian boy not known too much English.

Nat Jay says:

Hi Dr. Jo! Just wondering, should these be done every day? Or every other day? Thanks!

Yerika Soho says:

will these be the right exercises for Tendinosis? loving the way you explain this in a simple easy to understand manner and loving that shirt! 🙂

Gangsta Field says:

Hello Doctor Jo. My MRI says I have tendinosis on my supraspinatus tendon I know it takes a while to heal but my question is will it heal completly without scar tissues or cellular damage left ? And another question is what can I train at the gym besides legs only ? Thanks.

Mike Curatola says:

Can I do the internal rotation with weight standing? I use a band for this.

Scott Lyon says:

Thanks, Dr. Jo! Good stuff. Wondering if you can recommend frequency and duration for the routine. I just began today after several days of medium-severe pain in left cuff. This routine felt good. Daily? Every other day? What is a typical recovery timeline (healthy male, 30s)? Thinking 2-4 weeks as a guess.

moondmullins says:

Appreciate you taking the time to make this video, may have tendanitis in my rotator cuff and looking for some low stress exercises to strengthen it.

Dolores Enriquez says:

Love your video's. I have a question for you, on your video you are treating rotator cuff problems. I was just diagnosed with Tendinosis is that the same thing. I have been in severe pain already a hour and seeing a specialist in a couple of weeks but I need to find some sort of relief now.
Thanks for your videos and information

Mary Marty says:

Thank you. I think these will work and help my left shoulder.

Mr.EatsYouForDinner says:

why do i have pain in my shoulder joint everytime i do excercises for my rotator cuff ? pls help!

Devon Roepke says:

I have tendinopathy in both shoulders. Should I avoid doing the external rotation stretch or is that fine? I am just worried that will do more harm than good if I use one arm, that has tendinopathy, to push down the other arm.

marni kraft says:

i have been diagnosed with rotator cuff tendinopathy.. im waiting for an mri (3 more months), and a ortho surgeon (up to two years wait). my doc has said physio… i cant afford physio since i cannot work with this… so i am home schooling.. how do i know if i am damaging more than helping,,, i am in so much pain 24/7 and have lost most of the use of my arm, pain right down to elbow, it best to just stick with keeping as much movement as possible without strengthening? my doc hasnt offered me any pain control aside from precriptions , which i cant take. i am sure there must be something i can do at home to help with the constant pain. thank you… im using your videos daily

Ann Marie Boyle says:

LOVE you excersizes but I would love also -MORE DOGS!

Elane Horhi says:

I have to have a surgery due to rotator cuff problem and torn tendons.  Are there any exercises that I can do to prevent the surgery?  Thank you.

lydia delgado says:

thank you, for showing what to do to help ur arm, cuz I hurt my arm by sleep way to much on my right arm.

Diego says:

Thank you very much!!!

Dave Ross says:

Doc is this for torn or severely damaged rotator cuff? BTW we love all 6 of our fur baby rescues a hell of alot more than people Lol!!

Josh Frye says:

Hi Doctor Jo! How long do you do this sequence of stretches and exercises for? And how soon can I go back to regular weight training? I have taken a month of from lifting. I have been diagnosed with mild tendinopathy and a small labrum tear with an MRI.

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