shoulder pain, but today we are going to talk about rotator cuff injuries. The rotator cuff is a group of
muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, keeping the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. The rotator cuff can be injured by degeneration, inflammation, or trauma. If you have had an injury, it is important to have your shoulder examined by a medical professional such as your primary care doctor, a Doctor of Chiropractic, Osteopath or Doctor of Physical Therapy to help determine the appropriate approach.
The treatment of a rotator cuff injury depends on the severity of the injury to the tendons of the rotator cuff. It can be from an acute injury or overuse and repetitive motions. This can lead to a minor strain injury, partial tear of the tendons, or complete tear of tendons with loss of shoulder joint function. There are many different things you can do help alleviate your shoulder pain. This can depend on what type of injury you have. If it is an acute recent trauma, or following an activity that aggravates the pain, rest and ice can help decrease current inflammation. If it has been a chronic issue heat is a better option. It is important not to ice or heat longer than 20 minutes at a time as this can have a detrimental effect. Liniments like Icy Hot or Ben Gay can also be used to help alleviate shoulder pain but be sure to stop if they become irritating to the skin.
Stretching can also be a good way to prevent injuries and improve your range of motion, as well as reduce pain when there has been an injury. While stretching, it is important to do the movements just to the point of pain, then back off. Gradually, day by day, week by week, you should be able to move better without pain. Some nice rotator cuff stretches you can look up or ask us about are pendulum swings, will climbing, up the back stretches, and overhead stretches to name a few. These stretches should be performed several times (3-4) a day to help improve range of motion.
It is also important to strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff to prevent injury and help create more stability in the joint. Exercises should be performed when stretches can be done to full range of motion with no pain. It’s important to start slow and add more weight or resistance as you progress. A few exercises that can help with rotator cuff injuries are internal/external rotation with a band or weight, standing rows, shoulder abduction, isometric flexion and extension, and scapular retraction to name a few. These exercises should also be performed several times a day progressing to more resistance/weight to help stabilize the joint.
Every patient is different and the shoulder is a very complex joint so it can take a while to see results. It takes patience as the improvement will occur gradually over several weeks and requires strict avoidance of aggravating activities. But if you keep at it, with some hard work and determination, your shoulder will be pain and you’ll be back to your regular routine in no time!