Rotator Cuff Injuries – Melina Mirzaei, Kinesiologist
What Is the Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles whose function is to provide stability for the humerus (upper arm bone) in the shoulder socket. Rotator cuff injuries can result from repetitive movements or acute injuries. The type of rotator cuff injury tends to vary with age, and can range from a mild strain to a complete tear. Athletes whose sport involves repeated overhead and throwing movements (such as those in volleyball, baseball or swimming) may be especially susceptible to rotator cuff pathologies. Complete tears are rarely seen in non-athletes below the age of 40, but are reported in greater numbers in those aged 50-70.
What is rotator cuff tendinopathy?
The 4 muscles of the rotator cuff and their tendons connect your shoulder blade to your humerus (upper arm bone). A tendinopathy means that the tendons become inflamed and irritated, either due to repetitive movements over time, or as a result of an injury. Powerful throwing or overhead movements, for example, may contribute to tendon inflammation. Examples of acute injuries include a fall on an outstretched hand, or having the arm being pulled forward forcefully by a dog’s leash. Tendons can also tear over time, if the action is forceful and repeated often enough.
What indicates a rotator cuff injury?
The severity of rotator cuff injuries can vary widely – from chronic strain to a complete tear. However, common symptoms include:
- inability to lift the arm away from the body, or pain upon trying to do this
- a pinching sensation as the arm is lifted away from the body
- pain when lying on the affected side
- the exact location of the pain will depend based on which tendon is affected, or if more than one tendon is involved
How can a physio help?
A Physiotherapist will perform various physical tests in order to determine which tissues are involved in the injury. From this point, they will work with you to develop a treatment plan which may include manual therapy, electrotherapeutic modalities (ultrasound, TENS, etc.), acupuncture, and stretching and strengthening exercises.
How long will it take to get better?
The recovery time will depend on the extent of the injury. Most rotator cuff injuries will heal in 3-6 months, although this depends on each individual’s history, occupation, age, and time of presentation for treatment.
Written by Melina Mirzaei