Common Symptoms – Do I have a Rotator Cuff injury?
- Pain during exercise, sports or even when doing nothing, on the outside of your shoulder (it may feel like the pain is inside your shoulder too).
- Sharp painful twinges during various activities like putting on your jacket, clasping your bra, brushing your hair, or reaching above your head.
- Often people with this injury have poor shoulder posture, which is typically of people who work desk jobs or spend a lot of time sitting down (driving, computer, couch etc.)
- Pain when lifting your arm straight up in front of you and to the side.
General Information – Why does this injury occur?
Your shoulder is a particular unstable joint, which you may have witnessed – have you ever heard of someone dislocating their shoulder? Its not uncommon. This instability is actually important though, because it allows us to move our shoulder in many different directions – the shoulder is one of our most mobile joints. Your rotator cuff plays a very important role in providing stability to your shoulder, and is made up of four muscles. The blood supply to these muscles is often insufficient, which is why it is a common site for injuries.
Overuse or overworking your shoulder is almost always involved in rotator cuff injuries. Sports that involve a lot of shoulder strength and mobility – like basketball, racket sports (tennis, squash etc.) and golf – often cause these injuries. When these muscles get injured they are slow to heal (because of their poor blood supply) and will get progressively worse. However even if you’ve had symptoms for years, this injury typically responds to treatment quite quickly.
Typical Treatment – How will you cure my Rotator Cuff injury?
- Rest: This is particularly essential with this type of injury simply because it is associated with overuse or overwork. Not resting your shoulder always delays healing or makes the injury worse. However rest alone will not solve the problem.
- Ice: The body responds to the cold by increasing blood flow to the cold area. Increased blood flow brings with it increased nutrients to heal and repair the injury. I recommend applying ice for 10-15 minutes at a time, with 45-50 minutes of rest in between applications. However, because the blood supply to this area is poor to begin with, this will only speed up healing by a small degree.
- Manual Therapy: Hands on physiotherapy is essential for this injury. I will perform Friction Massage to the affected tendon(s), which increases mobility of the healing tissue (thus making it less likely to tear again during your daily activities). This type of therapy can be uncomfortable but its extremely effective and you’ll see positive results almost immediately – 3-4 sessions of this therapy is generally sufficient.
- Strengthening: Once the injury is cured, we then focus on preventing it from reoccurring. One way of preventing this is strengthening your rotator cuff muscles. Strong muscles and tendons are less likely to tear or get injured. Performing the exercise below is a great strengthening exercise for these muscles, and don’t forget to swap hand positions so you work both arms evenly! I’ll get you to build up to 15 reps each set, with three sets on each arm.
Make an Appointment
Remember, if you’ve got a shoulder problem, or any other injury, why not get it assessed by a professional, before it gets worse. Call me on 0861546175 or send me an email on email@example.com. You can see me in my Blackglen Clinic, Sandyford or we can organise a Home Appointment. I have weekend and evening appointments available as well, just give me a call for more information.
Thanks for reading!
Seán Flynn, Senior Physiotherapist