Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Exercise with Band

Background on Shoulder Pain at Elite

Shoulder pain is common in those whose sport or occupation requires repetitive actions like throwing or lifting heavy objects. At Elite, we see patients of all ages for shoulder injuries, whether it be an acute injury or degenerative. Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common causes of shoulder pain, but arthritis is also a common cause of pain as well. At Elite, we have 7 surgeons who specialize in injuries or conditions that cause shoulder pain and are here to help our patients form the best treatment plan based on their condition. Physical therapy is almost always the first recommended step by our surgeons to see if certain exercises and stretches will help the pain rather than jumping into surgery.

Why Do Exercises Help Shoulder Pain?

Physical therapy of the shoulder helps to strengthen the muscles around your shoulder to improve both its function and mobility. Our physical therapists work closely with our surgeons (and by close, we mean in the same building!). Have you ever had a physical therapist waiting on a referral or questions from the doctor regarding your condition? Well, at Elite they have direct access to your surgeon! That means no waiting for you or your physical therapist.

Do I Really Need Physical Therapy Before Surgery?

Working with a physical therapist before having surgery has several benefits, depending on how much you do beforehand. The longer you are in PT pre-op the more strength you can build before your surgery, making your recovery time smoother and possibly shorter. You will also be familiar with the types of exercises you will be doing after the surgery, so your body won’t be as shocked when those muscles get to working again! During those pre-op appointments with your physical therapist, they will also have the ability to talk you through some of the things to expect after surgery and how to prepare for them. Simple things like preparing your home to be more accessible can make all the difference.

At-Home Treatments for Shoulder Pain

Before scheduling an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, try ice and/or heat therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and stretching the shoulder. If these methods fail, it’s important to consult with an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the shoulder.

Exercises for Shoulder Pain

We always recommend consulting with a physical therapist before performing an exercise, but for general shoulder pain, there are a few that can help soothe the pain. While performing these exercises at home, be sure to not push yourself too hard.


  1. Across the Chest


Hold the arm that is experiencing pain across your chest and hold for around 25 seconds. Release the arm, rest, and repeat. You can do this exercise throughout the day if needed


  1. Doorway Stretch

Standing in an open doorway, raise your arms at a 90-degree angle with your palms forward. Rest your palms on the doorway and slowly step forward with one foot. Make sure to go slow until you feel a slight stretch in your shoulder. If your pain is sharp while doing this, stop the exercise.

  1. Downward Dog

This popular yoga pose is a great shoulder opener. If you are able, start on your knees and hands and copy the position as seen in the photo above. Pull your head towards your feet to feel a deeper stretch in your shoulders.




  1. Seated Spinal Twist

This exercise will help strengthen your back, chest, shoulder, and obliques. Start seated on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Cross one leg over your knee and place your elbow on your knee. Pressing your elbow into your knee, gentle twist your spine, keeping your core strong. Hold for at least 10 seconds and repeat.

  1. Chest Expansion

Standing, put your arms behind you and grab a towel with both hands. Gently open your chest and look up with your chin. Repeat these exercises as needed throughout the day.

If these exercises are no longer providing relief, it is important to consult with a shoulder specialist. We have 7 shoulder specialists at Elite who are ready to help get you back to what you love. See our shoulder surgeons and shoulder treatments here.

Cassie Whittaker Cassie is the Communications Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/cassie-whittaker-802a3b173

You Might Also Enjoy...

Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Doctor vs. Podiatrist

Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Doctor vs. Podiatrist

When you have a problem with your foot or ankle that requires medical attention, who do you see for treatment — an orthopedist or a podiatrist? Many people think a podiatrist is the same as an orthopedist, but there are several significant differences betw
Orthopedic Surgeon Completing Arthroscopic Procedure

What Is an Orthopedic Surgeon?

Orthopedic surgeons treat conditions in the knee, shoulder, elbow, back, hand, foot, and more. Learn more about orthopedic surgery and how you can find the best doctor near you. Elite has 12 highly skilled orthopedic surgeons in Nashville, TN.
Pictured: Back doctor giving diagnosis

The Back Doctor - What You Should Know

Do you need to see a back doctor in Nashville, TN? Our team of fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons include some of the best spine specialists near you. Learn about symptoms and prevention of back pain and back conditions.
Hand Pain May Lead You to a Hand Doctor

The Hand Doctor - What You Should Know

Do you need to see a hand doctor in Nashville, TN? Our award-winning orthopedic surgeons include some of the best hand specialists near you. Check out this guide to see if you could live a lower pain lifestyle.