The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that help with the dynamic stability and movement in the shoulder joint. These muscles are called the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor. A rotator cuff injury is any type of damage or irritation of these muscles and also the tendons of the shoulder joint. Injuries include impingement, tendinopathy, strains and tears and they can be either be acute or chronic. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint that enables the arm to move in a variety of directions. It is made up the humerus and the scapula. The humerus is held in place by the glenohumeral ligaments, capsule, rotator cuff muscles and scapular stabilizing muscles. Therefore if any of these parts are experiencing pain (such as the rotator cuff muscles in this instance), your shoulder becomes painful to use and this limits your movement.
Some Causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries:
Causes of a rotator cuff injury include lifting, falling, repetitive activities, overhead activities, throwing and catching a ball, poor posture and degenerative changes to name but a few. They are quite commonly seen in swimmers and tennis/badminton players. A patient with a rotator cuff injury usually presents with pain around their shoulder joint and pain when attempting specific tasks such as pulling and lifting. They will also show weakness and a decrease in movement of the shoulder joint such as reaching above the head or behind the back. Night pain is also a common symptom.
The initial treatment of a rotator cuff injury within the first seventy-two hours consists of the R.I.C.E. method – this stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and should be completed in that order. Any aggravating activity must be avoided in the early stages of rehabilitation. Physiotherapy treatment during rehabilitation includes joint mobilisation, soft tissue massage, electrotherapy, dry needling, postural education and exercise therapy to name but a few potential treatment methods. The success rate of treatment is largely dictated by patient compliance and can take from 3 – 6 months to recover. For example if a patient is not completing exercises at home outside of treatment, their progress can be inhibited as the muscles take longer to re-build their strength and size.
What we can do for you:
At PhysioCare, your Chartered Physiotherapist will devise a rehabilitation program to improve the flexibility and strength of your shoulder joint to thus enable it to return to previous lifestyle and sporting activities. Your physiotherapist will advise you on what activities to avoid and what exercise and activity is suitable for you to maintain your cardiovascular fitness levels while your shoulder is healing. They will also advise you when it is safe to return to sport and work. In severe cases, sometimes physiotherapy treatment of a rotator cuff injury is not successful. If this occurs, your physiotherapist will advise you on the next step of your rehabilitation journey. This may include further investigations to confirm the diagnosis and severity of the injury.