What is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is an important group of muscles which keep the shoulder joint stable during arm movements, and help to rotate the shoulder. We see a variety of injuries with the rotator cuff ranging from tendinitis/tendinosis, small tears, and post-operatively when large tears in the rotator cuff are surgically repaired. Tears in the rotator cuff tendons can occur from a traumatic injury, or from overuse. Depending on the size of the tear, and other factors, they will decide to either surgically repair the tendon(s), or suggest conservative treatment. Tendinitis occurs when repetitive stresses to the tendons result in small micro-tears and inflammation, if this becomes chronic degenerative changes occur in the tendon(s) and it is now referred to as a tendinosis. The tendons of the rotator cuff pass under a bony arch to attach to the humerus. The tendons can be pinched in this area, leading to micro-tears and inflammation.
This often occurs during repetitive, prolonged overhead activities such as sports like volleyball or jobs like an electrician or carpentry, of if the arm is held in one position for prolonged periods such as computer work, especially when combined with poor posture. If not properly managed, over time this can develop into a rotator cuff tear.
People with rotator cuff tendinitis or small tears complain of pain in the shoulder, mainly with overhead activities such as brushing/washing your hair, reaching for something on a high shelf, performing overhead work, or from lowering the shoulder from a raised position. As the condition progresses, pain will likely be felt at rest and at night, especially if laying on the affected shoulder.
Pain is usually felt in the front or outside part of the shoulder, and may radiate down the arm to the midpoint of the humerus. You will likely also experience weakness, a loss of range of motion, especially above shoulder height, stiffness, and difficulty reaching behind you, or placing the arm behind the back.
Treatment starts by managing the inflammation, guiding swelling out of the shoulder joint to encourage an optimum environment for healing. We will use hands on treatment techniques, modalities, and give you at home instructions on icing and exercise to accomplish this. We will work to decrease muscle tension, correct posture, and ensure each area is moving properly to take stress of the tendons. We will develop an exercise program to strengthen the rotator cuff and the surrounding muscles to make sure everything is working as it should to help prevent this condition from coming back!
If you think you may be suffering with a rotator cuff injury, contact us today to book an appointment.