Kellie K. Middleton, MD

Best Stretches For Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Jun 21, 2022
Best Stretches For Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Also commonly known as swimmer’s shoulder, shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) is a condition that occurs due to repeated use of overhead arm movements...

Also commonly known as swimmer’s shoulder, shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) is a condition that occurs due to repeated use of overhead arm movements. This condition is common, but it is also irritating and painful, and not only restricts a person’s ability to exercise but it can also hamper everyday activities, which can have a significant detrimental effect on work and daily life.

If you have been treated for shoulder impingement syndrome, or are experiencing significant undiagnosed pain in your shoulders and shoulder blades, keep reading. We’ve covered the basics of this condition including shoulder impingement exercises that will help to relieve pain and restore your mobility over time.

What Is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?

SIS is a condition that occurs when the acromion (the top edge of the shoulder blade) and the bursa sac (a fluid-filled sac between the acromion and tendon) rub against the rotator cuffs, trapping the rotator cuff tendons and causing pain and irritation. This usually occurs when the arms are repeatedly lifted overhead and rotated away from the body.

This is why the condition is normally associated with sports, particularly swimming. However, it can also be a result of painting, lifting heavy objects, and pre-existing bone or joint abnormalities.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Common symptoms of SIS include:

  • Pain in shoulders when extending your arms overhead or behind your head and back.
  • Pain when lying on the affected shoulder, which affects your ability to sleep.
  • Muscle weakness in the shoulder muscles which makes it difficult to extend your arms or pick things up.
  • Tenderness in the front of the shoulder.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

In order to diagnose you with SIS, your healthcare provider will examine the affected area and will test the range of motion in your shoulders and arms. X-rays may also be taken to ensure it isn’t a result of arthritis and to check the position of the bone and rotator cuffs.

Helpful Stretches And Exercise

Thankfully, there are certain shoulder impingement stretches that you can do to help alleviate pain, pressure, and weakness in your arms and shoulders.

Door Chest Stretch

  1. Start by standing in a doorway with your forearm placed on the door frame at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Place one foot in front of the other.
  3. Stabilize your shoulder and slowly turn away from your arm.
  4. Continue until you feel a deep stretch in your chest and hold for 5 seconds at a time.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Anterior Shoulder Stretch

  1. Place your hands behind your lower back and hold them together.
  2. While keeping your elbows as straight as possible, slowly lift your hands up and away from your body.
  3. Keep your posture as straight as possible.
  4. Continue until you begin to feel strain and slight discomfort. Do NOT continue until you feel pain.
  5. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.

Posterior Shoulder Stretch

  1. Stand with your back straight while still maintaining your natural posture.
  2. Relax your shoulders and stretch one arm straight across your chest.
  3. Grab the elbow with your free hand and gently pull it in toward your chest.
  4. Hold for 10-15 seconds.
  5. Repeat with the other arm.

Shoulder Retraction

  1. Stand with your back straight and stretch your arms out horizontally in front of you, keeping them steady.
  2. Begin slowly moving your arms forward and backward in a circular motion using only your shoulders.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

Internal Shoulder Rotation

For this exercise, you will need a resistance band and will return to the doorway in exercise 1.

  1. Loop one end of the resistance band on the door handle and hold the other in one hand.
  2. Turn sideways keeping your elbow at your side and slightly bent.
  3. Without using your elbow, move your hand across your body in a rotating motion, so you feel the stretch in your shoulders.
  4. Switch arms and repeat 5 times on each side.

Scapula Squeeze

  1. Stand up straight with both arms held up by your head, elbows bent.
  2. Attempt to squeeze your shoulder together without moving your arms too much.
  3. Do this until you feel strain (but not pain) in your shoulder blades and hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Shoulder impingement syndrome can make life difficult, but with proper exercise and treatment, you can relieve pain and irritation and begin the healing process.

If you or a loved one are struggling with SIS or other shoulder injuries, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Atlanta-based team at Kellie K Middleton MD. We provide thorough injury diagnoses and treatment, and are dedicated to getting you back on your feet in no time! For more information or to set up a consultation, you can call us at +770-509-4030 or send an email to