Rotator cuff injuries are very common and range in severity from tendonitis to a tear. As people age, their chances of sustaining a rotator cuff injury increase due to increased physical activity. Are you dealing with a rotator cuff injury and don’t know what to do? There are many treatment options for this type of injury, with physical therapy being one of the best bets.
What Is a Rotator Cuff Injury?
Rotator cuff tendonitis is an inflammation of a group of muscles in the shoulder together with an inflammation of the lubrication mechanism called the bursa.
This condition is caused by or associated with repetitive overhead activities such as washing cars and windows and sports with throwing motions. Rotator cuff tendonitis is the mildest form of rotator cuff injury.
Rotator cuff tears can be caused by an accident or fall, or they can be degenerative and occur over time as the tendon wears down with age and use. You can have a partial tear (still somewhat attached) or a complete tear (separates completely) from the bone.
For athletes, rotator cuff tears are most common among those who participate in overhead sports such as swimming, tennis, volleyball, and baseball.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the symptoms of rotator cuff injuries include:
- Discomfort in the shoulder when sitting or lying
- Deep aches in the shoulder area
- Difficulty with reaching up or above the head
- Arm weakness
Causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries are muscle and tendon injuries so they are caused by activities that aggravate these areas. Some of the causes include:
Repetitive motions: jobs that involve constant reaching up and other overhead motions can put a lot of strain on the shoulders. This includes jobs like house painting, carpentry, or other similar jobs. This can lead to long-term damage to the rotator cuff.
Sports accidents: certain sports such as baseball or tennis leave people more prone to sustaining rotator cuff injuries. This is because of the frequent shoulder rotations that may end up aggravating the rotator cuff and causing injuries.
Direct impact: direct impact to the shoulder due to collisions or accidents can result in a muscle in the rotator cuff being torn or a tendon being stretched or aggravated. Direct impact injuries can result in complete tearing of the muscle.
Genetics: doctors believe some people have genetic components that result in them being more prone to rotator cuff injuries. This means that they may either have weaker muscles and tendons in that area or that they are more likely to be injured in that way.
How to Prevent Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries can be prevented by targeting and strengthening the arms and shoulders which directly strengthens the muscles in the rotator cuff. You should focus on both the front muscles of the chest, shoulder, and upper arm, as well as the back of your shoulder. This balances your muscles. Exercises aimed at strengthening the rotator cuff should be done in moderation to avoid damage.
On that note, rotator cuff injury can also be prevented by providing variation to routine tasks and exercises that put stress on the shoulders. This means taking breaks from work or mundane activities that involve overworking the shoulders and alternating exercises to give the shoulders time to rest and recuperate.
How can Physical Therapy help with Rotator Cuff Pain?
Physical therapy helps with rotator cuff injuries by providing a means for the patient to work on regaining shoulder mechanics. Physical therapy can also help to strengthen the shoulder muscles to prevent further injury and aggravation.
Dealing with a rotator cuff injury? Contact us today for help and assistance with your healing journey!