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Shoulder Warm-Up Exercises

Why Warm-up?

The human shoulder is a complex maze of muscles, ligaments, tendons, bone and blood vessels.

We use our shoulders hundreds of times each day without any thought to the inner workings of the joint.

Then one day we reach up to pull something down from the closet or we reach out to catch a baseball and pain surges through our shoulder with such intensity it stops us in our tracks.

At that point we finally pay attention to the joint we use and abuse daily.


sitting on gym bench

Whether you have experienced a shoulder injury in the past or not, it is important to take every precaution necessary to ensure this vital part of our body continues to serve us well today and in the future.

Just like a car will eventually wear down, our shoulders may one day become too worn to perform such simple tasks as lifting a fork, scratching a forehead or throwing a ball.

To ensure that our car starts every day and gets us to our desired location we perform regular maintenance, checking and changing the oil, adding gas, changing the spark plugs, keeping the belts tight and air in the tires.

While we cannot change the blood in our shoulder or regularly tighten the ligaments and tendons to protect our shoulders from injury, there are some things we can do to keep our shoulders in the best possible shape.

Benefits of warming up

By warming up the shoulder joints before participating in any kind of sporting activity, playing a musical instrument or even doing heavy housework such as sweeping, mopping or vacuuming we can help prevent an unnecessary shoulder injury.

Warming up the joints in our bodies circulates the blood which helps the muscles, tendons and ligaments to function more effectively.

Warm up exercises

Warm up exercises need not take more than 5 minutes. The exact type of exercises can be tailored to your specific activity.

When warming up the shoulders, the following tips will get you on your way to your desired activity with decreased risk for injury:

Exercise 1

With your arms at your sides, shake them gently as though you were shaking water off your hands for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

The small movements will work to get the blood flowing to the shoulder area.

Exercise 2

Gently swing each arm in a circle forwards then backwards for 1 minute.

Increase the size of your circle as you get more comfortable with the movement.

This helps to lubricate the joints in preparation for more strenuous activity.

Exercise 3

With each arm, go through the movement of throwing a ball for 1 minute, increasing the velocity of the movement as your comfort level increases.

This will allow the muscles to begin to contract and relax as the increased blood flow warms the fibers of the muscles.

throwing ball 1 throwing ball 2

Exercise 4

The next exercise depends on which activity you are preparing for.

For 1 minute perform the movement of your activity without any apparatus.

For example if you are a golfer, practice swinging without the club; if you play tennis or volleyball, practice serving without the racket or the ball.


If you have ever had the misfortune of being in a shoulder immobiliser then you fully understand the importance of the shoulder to everyday activity.

Using your shoulders without properly warming them up is a great way to tear muscle fibers, tendons or ligaments.

Taking just a few minutes to prepare the shoulder joint for activity by following the above tips will improve your chances for avoiding injury.

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