Understanding Rotator Cuff Dysfunction
Studies show that 22% of the general population has suffered from some kind of rotator cuff issue. Rotator cuff problems cause pain and discomfort in even the simplest of tasks. What is rotator cuff syndrome though?
We are glad you asked! Many of our patients visit us due to rotator cuff-related injuries. We are going to take an in-depth look at this complex body part and the injuries that go along with it.
Let’s get started!
What Is Rotator Cuff Syndrome?
The ball and socket joint in the shoulder girdle are similar to a golf ball and its tee. The ball is way bigger than the socket that it rests on and as a result, the ball and socket joint rely on passive (joint capsule, ligaments, tendon) and active (muscles) structures to maintain the ball centered in the socket when the arm moves. Any disruption to these passive and active structures can instigate shoulder pain.
A rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles: Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and Subscapularis. These muscles start in the shoulder blade and their tendons attach to the ball head.
As we move our arm up overhead, these muscles contract in sync and keep the ball centered in the socket. As a result, we are able to move our arms in all ranges pain-free. With that being said, if there is irritation or damage in the rotator cuff complex it affects the way the ball moves and thus can lead to pain, impingement, instability, and more.
Types of Rotator Cuff Injuries
The causes of rotator cuff dysfunction are varied from traumatic and non-traumatic. With traumatic injuries, shoulder pain is caused due to direct or indirect trauma to the shoulder.
A fall, shoulder separation, shoulder dislocations, sudden jerk/pull, etc. are some common causes. The pain usually starts immediately, however, it could take up to two days for the symptoms to present.
Non-traumatic: Here, the pain is gradual in onset. The pain is initially an ache that you can ignore and think that it will eventually go away, but then it slowly gets worse over time. The cause of pain is usually vague in these cases. Repetitive overhead work, working in tricky positions, working out with improper form or too much resistance, muscle imbalances in the shoulder joint, arthritic changes in the shoulder joint, etc are some reasons that may cause pain in these types of shoulder pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Problems?
Typical RC pain is pain around the point of the shoulder and upper arm. The pain is an achy discomfort or sometimes absent at rest and sharp with movement or stress on the affected shoulder.
Pain can also sometimes refer to the elbow into the forearms. Patients also present with pain and ache that refers to the upper rib cage and neck area. Additionally, it is not uncommon to have neck stiffness in some cases.
How To Avoid Rotator Cuff Injury
Like most injuries, rotator cuff injuries can be easily prevented. The key is to keep the shoulder movements safe and frequently stretch and rotate your shoulders correctly. Let’s take a look at a few tips for keeping a healthy shoulder.
Before workouts, you should make sure to have a really good warm-up. Your warm-up should include shoulder, neck, and upper back mobility exercises. Ideally, you need to spend about 10- 20 mins in warm-ups.
If your work involves repetitive overhead work, or work in awkward positions, work on mobility drills in areas of the body that tend to get tight over time. If you are experiencing pain, try to take it easy for a couple of days and avoiding activities that induce pain.
Focus on rotator cuff-specific exercises on a regular basis. Be smart about the way you lift at work, the gym, etc. If your work requires you to sit in from of a computer, you need to move every hour or so to reduce tightness. Focus on stretching your shoulders, neck, mid-back, and lower back daily.
My Imaging Reports Show a Tear In My Rotator- will I Require Surgery?
Not all rotator cuff tears require surgery. A degenerative tear in the rotator cuff tendon is a common occurrence in our bodies as we age. These tears always show up on an MRI, but the tear could have been there even before the shoulder pain started.
Degenerative tears usually respond well to exercise rehab. Only after you have tried good quality rehab from a reputable therapist should you ever consider surgery. The same is the case for small to medium size tears that as associated with falls. Degenerative and small to medium size tears respond well when appropriate load management techniques and rehab are provided.
In cases where tears occur due to trauma, the need for surgery may arise in cases of symptomatic small to medium full-thickness tears. Physiotherapy rehab has shown to give a significant improvement in patient functional outcomes post-surgery.
You should always discuss non-surgical options with your surgeon, physiotherapist, or chiropractor first before going under the knife.
Healing Your Pain Today
Now that you know the answer to the question, “ What is rotator cuff syndrome?” you can better understand your symptoms and move forward with a treatment plan. Health professionals like physiotherapists and chiropractors are trained in identifying and treating different kinds of shoulder dysfunctions.
After a thorough assessment of your shoulder, neck, and mid-back we will be able to provide you with an individualized exercise program and healing techniques. Additionally, at Theramax Rehab Centre, we use different treatment modalities such as dry needling, shockwave therapy, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, soft tissue release techniques, etc. to help you with your pain and improve the shoulder range.
So, if you are ready to get started on your treatment, contact us to schedule an appointment today!