Whether you are an athlete, professional house painter or do-it-yourself kind of person, your shoulder may be at risk of a rotator cuff injury. The injuries can range from mild to debilitating and can prevent the range of motion you used to enjoy. Thankfully, some basic strategies can help prevent rotator cuff injuries. If they are already injured, there are effective treatments available.
What Is the Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is four groups of tendons surrounding the shoulder. They work by connecting to muscles from the shoulder blade, which stabilizes both joints. They also allow for the shoulder’s unique range of rotational motion. Common injuries include sprains, strains, fraying and tearing.
Preventing Rotator Cuff Injuries
The sizeable range of motion of the shoulder relies on the rotator cuff for smooth, pain-free movement. For such a vital set of muscles, they are hard to target with general shoulder exercises.
The best strategy for preventing any shoulder injuries is to strengthen the large shoulder muscles and use targeted exercises specifically for the rotator cuff. Low impact, low resistance and range of motion exercises will help strengthen the area while minimizing the risk of injury. Always consult with a professional before starting any training program. This ensures you are getting the most out of each exercise and prevents damaging the area.
Causes of Rotator Cuff Injury
While accidents like falling with outstretched arms can cause rotator cuff injuries, there are other ways your tendons can be damaged, including:
Activities Requiring Overhead Reach: While the first thing you may think of is a fastball pitch or overhand tennis serve, any activity above your head can place a strain on your rotator cuff. More mundane activities, like the repetitive overhead push and pull of a paint roller or light recreational swimming, can be enough to injure your rotator cuff.
Aging: Rotator cuff injuries are more common in those over 60. It is caused by the gradual deterioration of the muscles over time and is one reason strength training is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s never too late to strengthen your shoulder. Always consult a doctor before beginning a new program.
Repetitive Motion: This is easier said than done for many people. If you require a repetitive motion for work, sports or activity, take frequent breaks and rest your shoulders. Preventive exercise can ensure the shoulder is properly supported.
Signs of a Rotator Cuff Injury
The first sign of a rotator cuff injury is pain with normal activities, and it may feel like nothing more than a ‘pinch’ or ‘twinge.’ Activities like putting on your coat, picking up grocery bags or waving to someone might cause pain, and you may find it gets worse as the day goes on.
As with many injuries, nighttime pain is often worse. You may only be able to sleep in an upright or semi-reclined position.
Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injuries
The first line of defense when dealing with shoulder injuries is to stop what you’re doing and get the injury evaluated by a specialist. By limiting the amount of damage, you can help reduce healing time. Keeping full shoulder function is the primary goal.
Treatment for mild rotator cuff injuries can include rest, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. Severe tears or tears across the tendons usually require surgery. The same is true for smaller tears that continue to cause pain.
With the right medical team, your rotator cuff injury doesn’t have to dictate the activities you can do. If you think you have injured your rotator cuff, contact DOCS Health in Los Angeles for a consultation today.