Causes and Symptoms
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles in the shoulder joint area that keep the joint stable and allow the shoulder to move in all directions. There are four muscles in total that make up the rotator cuff, and damage to one or more of those muscles can lead to varying degrees of pain and loss of ability to use the shoulder. For those with serious rotator cuff damage, the shoulder may become nearly useless and their quality of life will be seriously affected. It is important to diagnose a rotator cuff injury or condition right away so that treatment can begin and the shoulder can be rehabilitated as quickly as possible.
Signs of Rotator Cuff Issues
The signs of a rotator cuff problem begin typically with pain running over the top of the shoulder or along the outside of the arm. This pain could be gradual at first in the case of chronic rotator cuff tears, or sudden and sharp in the case of an acute tear. You may also experience should weakness and a loss of range of motion in the shoulder joint. When the rotator cuff is completely torn, daily activities like getting dressed or taking a drink of water may become impossible with the affected arm.
Going to a physical therapist for an examination of your rotator cuff is a great way to get started with treatment options. Once the therapist has a good idea of the severity of the damage within your shoulder, a plan of attack can be created. The sooner this occurs, and the better job you do sticking with the plan, the higher the chances of complete rehabilitation.
Rehab of a rotator cuff injury may or may not include surgery. If you have experienced a ‘full-thickness’ tear in the rotator cuff, surgery might be your best option remove the pain and get functionality back in the shoulder. After that operation, physical therapy will be important to improve the strength and flexibility in the joint so you can get back your quality of life. The therapy plan you are likely to undertake will include for exercises that address the shoulder itself, as well as the areas around the shoulder. By improving the fitness level of all of the areas involved, your rotator cuff won’t have to bear too much of the burden and will be less likely to be reinjured down the line.
To avoid developing rotator cuff problems, or to limit their severity, you can take a few simple steps. First, try to avoid using your arm over your head in a repetitive fashion. Moving your arm over your head wears on the rotator cuff, which is why baseball pitchers commonly suffer from rotator cuff injuries. If you are unable to remove such motions from your daily life, try to incorporate rotator cuff exercises as a preventative measure to strengthen the muscles and hopefully prevent damage from developing.
While a rotator cuff injury can be painful and render your shoulder less effective than it once was, physical therapy can play a large role in getting back your comfort and quality of life. Be faithful about following the advice of your physical therapist when dealing with a rotator cuff injury and you will be on your way to relieving the pain and weakness in your shoulder.