Have you been experiencing pain or weakness in your shoulder muscles? Do you notice a sharp pain every time you try to brush your hair or reach backward? If you are currently struggling with this localized discomfort and the pain isn’t subsiding, you may be suffering from a rotator cuff injury.
Although a rotator cuff injury is not a serious condition, it does require prompt medical attention and proper care. You may even want to try and work through the pain, but this can actually lead to a worsening of the injury and result in long-term damage. However, before we get into treatment protocol, let’s first understand what a rotator cuff injury is and the accompanying symptoms.
The rotator cuff is the collection of muscles and tendons that encompass the shoulder joint, and its primary function is to keep the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. An injury to the rotator cuff can be anything from a tear as a result of an injury, to deterioration of the muscles and tendons as a result of arthritis.
Rotator cuff injuries are very common and especially prevalent in those who continuously extend and stretch their shoulders, such as basketball players, swimmers, or construction workers. This repetitive motion puts a strain on the rotator cuff muscles and causes them to tear or strain, leading to substantial pain and limited range of motion.
Symptoms of a rotator cuff injury include shoulder discomfort, arm weakness, and an inability to move your arms above or behind your head. If not properly treated, complications can include permanent loss of motion and rapid degeneration of the shoulder joint.
A rotator cuff injury is typically diagnosed by a medical professional during a physical examination. Usually, manual manipulation of the shoulder joint will result in discomfort and let the medical professional know that the issue is an injury to the rotator cuff.
However, there are also a variety of imaging tests used to further confirm the diagnosis. An X-ray will typically be used first to rule out bone spurs or arthritis as the cause of pain. An ultrasound or MRI, which can clearly see the soft tissue and muscle structure, will allow the medical professional to spot any tears in the tendons of the rotator cuff.
Once diagnosed, treatment typically consists of rest and ice. However, if these fail to provide relief, then steroid injections might be considered to further reduce the inflammation. However, these injections can lead to further complications down the line, as steroids will weaken tendons over time.
Surgery is also an option and typically saved for last resort cases. If the injury is extensive, or if other avenues of treatment have not worked, then your medical professional may recommend surgery to repair the injury.
If you have been suffering from a rotator cuff injury, but unwilling to receive any injections or go in for surgery, physical therapy has demonstrated great success. This holistic approach to treatment will not only result in pain relief, but it will lead to long-term results.
Physiotherapy is a treatment that aims to restore and maintain a patient’s mobility. Through various exercises and manipulation of the joints, a physiotherapist will isolate the discomfort and work with you to restore your range of motion.
In the case of rotator cuff injuries, there are a number of rotator cuff exercises and stretches that a physiotherapist would employ to address the issue. All of these exercises focus on strengthening the muscles in the shoulder and reducing inflammation around the injury.
Additionally, your physiotherapist might address your rotator cuff injury by massaging your shoulder and upper back. This is a way of relaxing the injured muscles and tendons to promote healing.