Sustaining a rotator cuff injury means that you’ve damaged a muscle, tendon or the joint capsule that stabilises your shoulder - or a combination of these. This can cause significant pain in and around the shoulder joint, weakness, stiffness, difficulty elevating your arm and moving the shoulder joint. Because many of us tend to roll over in our sleep, we must manage this injury carefully to avoid a very painful and abrupt wake-up! It is common for a rotator cuff injury to cause a tear within one of the muscles or tendons.
Your rotator cuff is the reason you can lift your arm above your head and perform an awesome cricket bowl easily, comfortably and without the joint popping out of its socket! This cuff surrounds the shoulder joint and is comprised of the tendons, muscles and the joint capsule that deliver this stability and ease of movement. As with any structures in the body, they’ve got a limit to how much movement they naturally allow before they are susceptible to injury - causing you pain.
Technically speaking, there are four stabilising muscles within the rotator cuff. These are called the:
It’s likely that you’ve either sustained a trauma or you’ve overdone it and have sustained an overuse or degenerative injury.
When talking about trauma, we mean things like banging your shoulder into the doorframe (hard), getting tackled in a good game of rugby, or even just tripping and falling onto your shoulder.
When talking about overuse, we mean you’ve either overdone it like during a cricket bowl and sustained an injury or even tear, or you’ve been overusing the muscles and the rotator cuff over time and they’ve weakened and degenerated as a result. If you’re young and fit, it’s likely to be the former - especially if you’re involved in high-intensity sporting activities. For those of us in our later years, it’s likely to be your years of hard work, especially when it comes to occupation or activities that involve repeatedly lifting your arm above your shoulder, like when stacking items or painting houses.
Other causes or contributing factors to a rotator cuff injury include:
Then it’s important to get assessed by your Physiotherapist. A rotator cuff injury can really disrupt your daily activities and ability to complete work tasks depending on your profession, including simple things like getting food down from the higher shelves of your pantry, grabbing your wallet out from your back pocket, fastening your bra, and grabbing your seatbelt.
Depending on the mechanism of injury and whether the injury is acute or chronic treatment can vary. The good news is we can work with you if you just had surgery and you are in the rehabilitation phase or if you had surgery years ago and still struggle with strength and mechanics. We do rehabilitate conservatively and this can include, stretches, strengthening, dry needling and shockwave therapy. We build our treatment sessions around the needs of you injury.