Yoga or Therapy for Shoulder (Rotator Cuff)?

Updated on January 17, 2012
J.D. asks from Flower Mound, TX
11 answers

I have had an issue with my shoulder for the past few months. I am pretty certain it is my rotator cuff, the extent to what is inflamed or injurred I am not sure. I do yoga a few times a week and work out 5 to 6 times a week. I have stopped any overhead exercise or anything that causes pain.

I have read up on a few yoga and therapy articles that were specific to rotator cuff issues and I am trying to incorporate these into my warmups.

My question is...has anyone successfully used yoga/physical therapy for a rotator cuff issue? If you did, how long did it take to see improvements?

I am going to see chiropractor/therapist that comes highly recommended in about a week. He is my last resort before I go to an orthopedic. I am very wary of surgery and want to avoid that if at all possible!!

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So What Happened?

Thanks all!! I have heard your warnings and scheduled an appointment with the Ortho for next week. Appreciate the input!!

FYI - going to the Ortho for diagnosis. I think my arm would have to be falling off before I would consider surgery. I want to make sure I know what is causing my issue and see what my options are.

More Answers



answers from New York on

Sorry you are suffering with this. I would definitely see a specialist before you make any decisions about treatment. I am a yoga instructor and I believe yoga can be helpful in these situations but it also has the potential to do more harm than good. I would say you can continue to do yoga but you should be very cautious and practice good form, especially depending on the style you practice. Often those who do a lot of vinyasa yoga end up with shoulder injuries from overuse, doing too many chatarungas with poor form. I am not sure if that is the style you practice but if so I would work from your knees for a while until you can get a clearer idea of what is happening and how best to treat it. There are many ways a yoga practice can be modified while you recover. Good luck!

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Phoenix on

If you have a tear you will need surgery. The rotator cuff will not heal a tear on its own - there is not enough blood flow. I would get it checked out and go from there. Good luck.

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answers from Dallas on

My husband was badly injured in a car accident years ago and his rotator still acts up occasionally.

He saw Dr. Sutker at Plano Orthopedic and Sports Medicine on Plano Parkway in Plano between Preston Road and the Tollway. I think they might even have a satelitte office now in Frisco. The Dr.'s there are FANTASTIC and very highly regarding in the community and surrounding states.

They do surgery as a last resort. My hubby did PT for a good while and learned all the exercises. He is back to his pro level of golf as well. When he has some pain, he just uses the tension ties from PT and works it out and the pain is sorted out within a few days.

I had an injury, not nearly as bad but I too went through PT and do exercises at home when there are flare ups. You CAN get through it without surgery.

ETA: These are the Dr's you most likely see on the field with athletes during football games, etc. Most are also team Dr's as well. They are GREAT

Best wishes.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Morning, I didn't have a rotator cuff injury (although, at first that is what people thought it was) However, turns out it was severe tendonitis up and down my arm (including my shoulder) neck and collarbone area.. That said, I initially did some physical therapy and yoga, however, what I discovered is that until I was completely healed, both modes of healing actually made matters worse. I know they tell you that all that stretching and lengthening is what you need, but truly, my body wasn't having it. However, MASSAGE really did help a lot and while I do think some stretching is good, I think in my case, it had to be done very gently.. overall, it wasn't until I left my job whereby I was on a computer for 8 to 10 hrs a day that my Tendonitis finally went away.. although, it didn't go away for about a year or so ... that is how damaged my body was.... now, I can exercise freely and unlike the past, whereby my shoulder , arm and neck area would never completely recover, which in turn, kept me from exercising in fear of having even more pain and compounding the problem..

whatever you decided, best of luck to you

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answers from Seattle on

Get an MRI first!!!

Because if it's not inflammation / irritation, but TEARING... you're changing it from a simple shot or very simple surgery to a massive reconstruction with months worth of recovery time.

I use something similar to the yoga concept on my knees. The concept is that when your need a total joint replacement or massive reconstruction because the tendons and ligaments are shot, to use your muscles to hold your bones together. This isn't a fix, but temporary solution that ONLY works for very specific problems, ONLY works as long as you can keep the muscles doing a job they weren't designed for, and can make problems go from bad to worse. I've been doing it for... sheesh, almost 20 years. I'm in daily pain, and any time I get sick or injured (or pregnant) and CAN'T keep the strengthening exercises I fall to pieces. Extreme pain, nerve damage, and joint damage are all side effects of this strengthening treatment, but was my only option, becase at first I was too young for joint replacement, and then my bones weren't in good enough condition, and now there are alternate surgeries that MAY be possible (cadaver tissue! I'm a zombie!! :D, but we're talking MANY surgeries over a couple years, with a couple years of rehab.

So 20 years of pain, and we may wait another 10, to see how the science and tech improves.

30 years of daily pain.

Versus my shoulder... which I tore to shreds last winter, got the surgery this fall (my son was sick for 6mo or I'd have done it sooner) and TWO MONTHS later, I'm pain free and working on stretching and strengthening!!!

With my knees... I'D NEVER HAVE NEEDED THEM TO BE REPLACED (or the surgeries I may get now-ish) if I'd had an MRI back when the problems first started. Instead, I kept competeing until I couldn't walk anymore. By the time I quit pushing through the pain... I'd ruined my knees. It took over a year of physical therapy 3x per week to learn to walk again, and I've been in daily pain ever since.

GET the MRI. Hope it's simple inflamation, but don't ruin a joint in trying to push through / find other ways to deal. You NEVER have to say "yes" to a surgery... but finding out what is actually wrong is pretty crucial to how you treat it!

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answers from Dallas on

Look up Dr. Loren Fishman's books or instructional videos. Alsotry to listen to his interview on NPR, where he talks about complete pain freedom from TRC injuries through a few yoga poses that retrain other muscles to help out once your RC is permanently damaged.

His website is

Good Luck!

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answers from Dallas on

I know this is late but I've heard wonderful things about all of the doctors that are part of Ortho Texas and I think there are quite a few locations around the DFW area. I know you've had your appt already but it might be good to have a second opinion. Hope everything works out!

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answers from St. Louis on

okey, dokey! Went thru this last year....& here's how it went:

1. had a flu-like virus, high fever the whole bit. Scooted/braced myself in the carseat & felt something "tear/rip" in my shoulder. Hurt soooo bad that my eyes rolled back into my head! My DH had been thru a torn rotator I thought I knew what was up.
2. saw my family dr as soon as my fever was down. Kept the arm in a sling & treated myself w/ ibuprofen to reduce inflammation.
3. Dr ordered an xray which I thought was useless, but was required by insurance co. Negative, as I knew it would be. 2 days lost due to processing. Aaaargh. I requested physical therapy/pain mgmt to relieve my pain & to try to regain range of motion.
4. Dr ordered a MRI, & referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. Arm still in sling, & it made all the difference. Physical therapy took place in the interim & it hurt like heck.
5. Orthopedic surgeon was fantastic! MRI showed "fraying" at rotator cuff, not a tear. Dr was adamant about NOT doing any type of surgery, & recommended a cortisone shot...which I agreed to on the spot. A "bee sting" & it was over...& the dr/nurse/I laughed, because my DH had always boohoo'd over cortisone shots in joints! Before the actual shot, I had asked if the pain would be "better or worse than natural childbirth".... & they thought I was hysterically funny. When it was all over, my comment was, "oh, please. I can't believe what a baby my DH is"!

Anyway, the dr said it would either work/not work...& we'd know within about 3 weeks. By week #1, I felt relief. By week #3, I could use the arm. Hooray! Oh, & the PT was a the time I saw the surgeon, it hurt to attempt the exercises. His opinion was "NO exercises, you need to rest the arm...not use it....or you will tear"!

Soooo, here's my recommendation: see the doctor before attempting to heal yourself!

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answers from Chicago on

Sue H is right on the money. See a real qualified doctor and get the tests done before trying to treat yourself. a chiropractor is great. we see him for our backs. but he can inadvertently make the issue worse if it is not treated correctly. see the doctor.

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answers from Dallas on

AHHHHH! PLEASE try massage first. Find a therapist who really knows what they're doing (not Massage Envy types of places). Surgery is absolutely the last resort.

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