There are many reasons why someone may experience pain in their shoulders, and some of the most common diagnoses you may hear are rotator cuff tendonitis, impingement or muscular strains. With all of those particular issues as well as generalized shoulder pain and “wear and tear” there are specific exercises that can prevent shoulder pain from occurring. Prevention is a key aspect of making sure you can perform the activities you’d like to and enjoy your hobbies and time with friends and family.

The shoulders need a strong foundation to move on, and thus the muscles between the shoulder blades are very important to strengthen. These are referred to as your “scapular stabilizers.” The particular muscles are middle and lower trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi muscles. Some particular exercises to strengthen these muscles are rows, lat pulldowns and prone stabilization exercises.

The prone stabilization exercises in particular are performed laying on your stomach and there are variations in where the arms are placed to start from. The arms are either at your sides, out to the sides like the letter “T,” up like the letter “Y” and near your ears like the letter “I”, respectively. These all work different muscle groups, and all should be felt in your back like you are pinching the shoulder blades to initiate the actual movement as you lift the arms up an inch or two toward the ceiling.

Rotator cuff muscles are also very important muscles to strengthen, and help to prevent injury in the shoulders. The rotator cuff muscles can be worked in different ways, one being shoulder external rotation. This exercise can be performed laying on your side, elbow bent to 90 degrees and rotate the forearm toward the ceiling. You will feel the shoulder muscles activate. Just be sure to have your elbow against a rolled up towel so that you have good alignment. You can start by performing this against gravity then add light weights to it if you need more resistance.

Shoulder range of motion and stretching is also a key aspect of injury prevention. The shoulders have the most available range of all the joints in the body and are able to move in all directions. One way to keep up with this is to practice moving the shoulders while laying down on your back or on a foam roller so you are elevated from the ground a bit. Bring the arms up and overhead and around like you are making a snow angel. Static stretching for the shoulder muscles is important as well. The rotator cuff muscles can be stretched by bringing your arm across your chest and hold with the other arm for 30 seconds.

Lastly, exercises that work on keeping a proper posture are always a good bet for decreasing the risk of shoulder injuries. The better alignment and proper shoulder positioning throughout the day, the less chance for issues in the future. You can achieve healthy shoulders and prevent any shoulder pain with these specific exercises.