What is Rotator Cuff Injury?
In order to understand why therapy might work for alleviating your pain, it is helpful to understand the structure of the area of your shoulders, first. The shoulder joint allows movement in many different directions including a straight lift of the arm or a circular motion. Four muscles are responsible for the flexibility of that movement. These four are your rotator cuff muscles. One easily understood model that helps explain what is happening is to think of your shoulder joint as a golf ball sitting in a golf tee. Your upper arm bone has a ball at the end of it. And your shoulder acts as a cup or tee holding the ball. The four muscle groups encase this solid or bony structure so the movement can take place.
Two basic types of injury for these muscle groups are impingement and tears.
Impingement: Impingement can happen when the muscle swells and gets trapped in between the bony structure of the joint. Swelling can take place as a result of overuse, an impact in the area or a disease. Also some people begin to feel a dull pain if they sleep in a position which puts pressure on the shoulder joint. This condition is often known as rotator cuff tendinitis.
Tears: Tears can take place in the muscles themselves or in the tendons connecting to the muscles. Although this type of injury is less common, it does occur more often as we age. People who are professional athletes such as football or baseball players are prone to tearing. Something such as a car accident or a direct fall onto your arm might also tear the muscle or tendon. If treated promptly, most tears do not require surgery.
How Do you Know you have Injured your Rotator Cuff?
There are some other symptoms besides pain that you should be aware of. You most likely have rotator cuff injury if you have
- Weakness in the area of your shoulder
- Loss of mobility
- Arm feels heavy
- Not able to raise your arms up high or around to your back
- Unable complete the daily activities that you have done in the past
Treatment Immediately after an Injury to the Rotator Cuff
RICE is an acronym used to help you remember what to do, right after you feel the pain of an injury.
R – REST – Stop the activity that is causing you the pain.
I – ICE – Apply ice on the area to reduce the swelling and inflammation.
C – COMPRESSION – Brace your arm so that there is no pull on the muscles that you have injured.
E – Elevate – Elevate the area to reduce any opportunity of swelling
What is the Therapy for Rotator Cuff Injury?
The first step to any treatment is to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Your primary care doctor may advise you to see a pain specialist at a pain treatment clinic.
When you visit the clinic, you can expect that your well-trained pain doctor in New York or pain doctor in New Jersey will first discuss the circumstances of your injury, examine you physically and take a full medical history, including the medications you are currently taking. Your doctor may also perform some simple tests such as asking you to push against resistance or lift your arm in a specific manner. To further understand what may be happening, your specialist may require some imaging to take place to help pinpoint the problem. Once the diagnosis has taken place, then you will likely be referred to a physical therapist for your rotator cuff injury. Your pain specialist will coordinator with the physical therapist so a program specific to your problem can be designed.
You can begin therapy, once the swelling has decreased and the pain is reduced or not evident.
There are a number of targeted and useful exercises to increase the muscle strength in this area. You will need to build up your muscle strength to avoid any further injury or to prevent any loss of flexibility. Your therapist will train you to complete the exercises at home and set guidelines for repetitions. These guidelines will change as you grow stronger.
Also, your physical therapist will discuss your daily activities, work routines or sports activities so that compensation can be made to reduce the stress on your muscles.
It may be that there will need to be a change in your posture to rectify your situation.
Since sleeping position can exacerbate the situation, your therapist will have suggestions for a position to reduce any stress.
Carrying heavy objects may be another issue. Your therapist will have specific instructions to help you with this task.
Other Therapies for Rotator Cuff Injuries
At times your pain doctor in NY or pain doctor in NJ may suggest injections to relieve your pain. The injections are medication which will relieve pain or reduce inflammation. These are often used first before any surgical procedure.
When is Surgery a Therapy for Rotator Cuff Injury?
Once other nonintrusive measures have failed, surgery is often effective. Your expert surgeon will discuss options for surgery with you, depending on your exact diagnosis. It may be that you only require surgery to repair a tear. Or you may require a partial or full replacement for the joint. All credible of orthopedic surgeons are members of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). If you have any concerns, check to see if your doctor is a member.
- Rotator cuff injury is more prevalent when you are older, complete repetitive daily tasks or are involved in a sport such as baseball, football or golf.
- For immediate treatment, remember RICE – rest, ice, compress and elevate.
- An accurate diagnosis of your injury is required at a pain treatment clinic to determine the best course of treatment.
- Physical therapy is an effective nonintrusive therapy for rotator cuff injury. It will help you with your pain as well as assisting you in preventing any further issues.
- Other more intrusive treatments can be tried if your pain is not alleviated through physical therapy.