While most people treat the shoulder as a single entity, your Highett physio knows that it’s actually a complicated network of bones, tendons and muscles that work together to give you a full range of motion.
There’s a lot of stuff going on in your shoulder. That also means there are many points of failure where things can go wrong.
Shoulder pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal issues physiotherapists treat on a daily basis. And out of all the different types of shoulder pain, rotator cuff injury is one of the more common ones.
But first, what is the rotator cuff?
Most of our clients that come to us for Physio for shoulder have never even heard of this part of the shoulder.
Simply put, your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. It’s the part of your shoulder that’s responsible for keeping your upper arm bone (humerus) firmly in its socket.
That’s its main job. In addition to that, it also facilitates smooth shoulder rotation, provides stability, and is essential for shoulder movement. Without a healthy ‘cuff, you can expect dull aches and pain every time you use your shoulder.
What causes rotator cuff injury?
As with any other part of your body, there’s no one cause behind rotator cuff injury.
Rotator cuff injury can range from:
- Inflammation of tendons in the cuff (tendonitis)
- Shoulder bursitis (click here to learn more)
- Parts of the cuff impinging on each other
- The tendons in your rotator cuff tearing (either partial or complete)
In some cases, rotator cuffs can be damaged by a particular mechanism of injury as well. Nasty falls and overexertion are a recipe for cuff problems – regular wear and tear is another common culprit.
People who perform repetitive overhead shoulder movements are at an increased risk of rotator cuff injury. That can include jobs like construction, painting and carpentry, as well as sports like weightlifting and tennis.
What are the symptoms of rotator cuff injury?
The signs of rotator cuff injury are difficult to miss.
Dull aches and pains are usually the first sign of rotator cuff injury, along with sharp pains on certain movements.
With rotator cuff problems it is quite common to experience:
- Disrupted sleep, especially if you sleep on your side
- Difficulty performing overhead motions like washing your hair or pulling on a jumper
- Weakness in your arms and shoulders
Swelling in the shoulder area
Shoulder pain when at rest (in more severe cases)
Without treatment from a qualified physio, rotator cuff injury can lead progressive deterioration of your shoulder joint.
Oftentimes, that translates into:
- Permanent loss of motion
- Loss of strength in your shoulder joint
- Chronic aches and pains
This risk is increased further with age. In some cases, family history comes into play too, with some cases of rotator cuff injury featuring a genetic element to them.
Treating rotator cuff injury
One of the most common pieces of advice people will give you for recovering from musculoskeletal injuries is to rest.
While modifying workload through the affected tissues is an important part of the recovery process, we don’t recommend staying immobile for extended periods.
In fact, in some cases taking it easy can make your rotator cuff problems even worse!
Doing so can cause the connective tissue in your cuffs to become thickened and tight, causing stiffness and pain.
This is a condition known as frozen shoulder – while your rotator cuffs might have recovered, you won’t have the same level of motion as before.
Want the right treatment? Visit your Highett physio
The exact treatment for your specific rotator cuff injury will depend on the nature of your problem, and the only way your problem will be correctly diagnosed is when you visit a physio.
Depending on the cause of your pain, your physiotherapist will prescribe exercises, stretches, and strength-building routines tailored to the affected areas of your rotator cuff.
Our Physio AUS formula for resolving rotator cuff problems includes a 4-stage exercise routine which we show you how to do at home and progress you to each ascending phase as you improve.
We also have access to expert dry needling practitioners who are some of the few in Australia trained in the IMS model of dry needling and will use this powerful tool to enhance healing responses in your affected tissues.
These routines slowly restore flexibility and strengthen the affected rotator cuff, restoring your full range of motion. Additionally, this also reduces the chances of injuries returning in the future.
These are especially useful if you got your rotator cuff injury through sport or work.
Your physio looks at how your daily routine may affect your shoulder, and helps you improve your routine to minimise your chance of further injury.
Visit a Highett physio for rotator cuff treatment
If your shoulders are giving you constant pain, visit Physio AUS at our Highett clinic for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment program.
Call us on 1300 392 552 or book your first Breakthrough session online today! Walk-ins are welcome too.