Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common causes of shoulder pain that we see. The rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles, located deep within the shoulder. They have an important role in stabilising the shoulder joint and assisting in all movements that you might put your arm through. These muscles are called the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor.
Generally, a rotator cuff injury will cause either sudden onset, or gradually worsening shoulder pain. Often, the pain is worse on movements such as raising the arm up from your side, lying on your side or may even be worse at night. Pain with rotator cuff injuries varies significantly. It may feel achy, dull or sharp and may even cause radiating pain down into the arm or across the shoulder, to the neck. In some cases there may even be sensations such as numbness, tingling or pins and needles into the arm or hand. The shoulder and arm can also feel weak and stiff.
The rotator cuff can be injured in many different ways. A sudden impact or stretch through the shoulder can tear one of the muscles or its tendon. This type of injury is common in falls and in contact sports.
Similarly, repetitive strain or irritation to one of these muscles can cause gradual damage to one of the rotator cuff tendons. This might result in degeneration of the tendon (tendonopathy) or inflammation of the tendon and surrounding tissues (tendonitis). These injuries are more common in activities that require a lot of repetitive over-head movements. For example: jobs such as painting, plastering and DIY, or sports such as swimming, throwing sports and racquet sports.
Regardless of the cause of the injury or the type of injury, it’s important to get the shoulder assessed if you think you might have a rotator cuff injury. The severity of rotator cuff injuries can vary significantly and as such, the treatment can vary. Similarly, there are many other causes of shoulder pain which are important to rule out through a thorough examination.
Postural Issues causing Rotator Cuff Injury
Those with rounded shoulder get overloaded rotator cuff tendons causing strain and irritation. The mid back gets very hunched and causes a lot of spinal dysfunction. A group of muscles called the ‘scapular stabilisers’ get very weak. These are responsible for holding your shoulder blades to your spine and pulling your shoulders back into a good alignment. Those with rounded shoulders get very tight across the chest, which can cause a condition called ‘costochondritis’ inflammation of the breast plate.
Make sure you have your alignment and posture checked by a Chiropractor to ascertain whether it is causing you shoulder problems.
Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injuries
As Chiropractors, we are trained to identify and diagnose the type of injury and treat the problem following the best available research.
Treatment for rotator cuff injuries often consists of a mixture of techniques which are selected to suit the specific injury and the person. Normally this means a combination of soft tissue work (working into the muscles and tendons), joint mobilisations or manipulations, and a course of progressive home exercises.
The aim of each treatment and exercise is usually to reduce pain, increase shoulder/scapula mobility, strength or stability, or to improve posture. However, the overall goal of treatment for a rotator cuff injury varies from person to person. Often, it may be to return to a sport, to be able to keep working, or even just to be able to perform day to day activities.