The rotator cuff is formed by a group of tendons and muscles around the shoulder joint. They ensure that the head of your upper arm is firmly kept within the shallow socket of your shoulder. Due to a rotator cuff injury, you may feel varying degrees of pain from dull ache to sharp stabbing pain. The mild pain might worsen when you sleep on the affected side. Most patients tend to live with the pain too long until it becomes complicated to treat.
At APC Physio, in Cork City and Fermoy, our excellent team of professionals have accumulated rich experience in helping patients struggling with various physical injuries including hundreds of rotator cuff cases.
We have created a short blog to help inform you about this common shoulder injury but be sure to give us a call if you need any further help.
Rotator Cuff Injury Symptoms
People are likely to get rotator cuff injuries when they perform lots of overhead motions while undertaking their daily routines. These might be carpenters, painters, and people who play tennis and basketball. The chances of suffering from rotator cuff injury also increase as you age and can happen to people regardless or physical activity or exertion.
The common symptoms of rotator cuff injury include:
• Arm weakness
• Disturbed sleep, if you lie on the side of the shoulder affected
• Mild to severe pain in the shoulder
• Difficulty to comb hair or reach behind your back
Rotator Cuff Tears
A rotator cuff tear is quite prevalent among old people and is one of the main causes of disability and pain. Millions of patients visit physiotherapists each year due to their problems with rotator cuff tears. Due to a torn cuff, your shoulder will get very weak, and you might not be able to undertake your normal duties such as getting dressed or combing your hair.
If your cuff tendons are torn, they will get detached from the head of the humerus. Though most tears take place in the supraspinatus tendon, at times, other parts of the cuff might get involved. The two main types of tears include full-thickness tear, and a partial tear.
Acute tear happens when you fall on your outstretched arm, or when you lift something that is too heavy while applying a jerking motion. This tear might be accompanied by other types of shoulder injuries, like dislocated shoulder or broken collar bones.
Some tears take place because the tendon has been worn out. Therefore, it progresses slowly over time. This type of injury is prevalent among the old. It tends to affect the dominant arm the most. Those with a degenerative tear in one shoulder are most likely to have a rotator cut tear in the other shoulder.
Diagnosis of the Injuries
Professionals at APC Physio will conduct a physical exam to find out whether your cuff has an injury. They will press various parts of your shoulder and try to move your arms into different positions. They will also try to find out the strength of the muscles around your shoulders and arms. In some cases, imaging tests might be encouraged. They include:
• X-rays- Though it might be impossible to notice a cuff tear using an x-ray, the method might help reveal bone spurs that could be leading to your pain.
• Ultrasound- In this test, images within your body are produced using sound waves. These are the images of structures of soft tissues like tendons and muscles. This technique allows for a wide range of testing and evaluating the structures around your shoulders as they move.
• Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)- In this technology, radio waves alongside a strong magnet are used. The images obtained manifest all structures of your shoulder. However, the quality of the equipment used determines the quality of the images obtained.
What Are the Treatment Methods?
Conservative treatments like ice, rest, and physiotherapy can be used to treat the problem. Our experienced team will use hands on techniques, dry needling and targeted strength work. In some cases, this is all that is needed to relieve you from the shoulder pain. In case of severe injury, you might be advised to go for surgery. However, a conservative physiotherapy approach should always be exhausted before this final step.
After trying conservative treatment and the pain does not go away, your physiotherapist might recommend a steroid injection into the shoulder joint. This might be the case if the problem is interfering with your sleep, exercise, and other daily activities. However, these shots might not provide a permanent solution to the problem. They should be used cautiously as they might weaken the tendon.
Why You Need Cuff Exercises
Your shoulder has many muscles, and they work jointly. Therefore, you need to strengthen your cuff to optimize the functionality of the muscles. The cuff is the primary stabilizer of your shoulders joint, which makes it essential.
The ball of your upper arm should be kept in the centre at all times. Otherwise, the surrounding tissues will be subjected to stress, which might lead to sudden and/or gradual pain due to these tissues getting overloaded or compensating.
APC Physio has carefully selected exercises to help strengthen your cuff to prevent possible injuries from occurring. The exercise can also protect you from shoulder impingement syndrome and help shoulder posture and avoid future issues. ( future proofing is good)
Rehabilitation Classes for You
APC Physio Clinic has everything you need for your physical wellbeing. Their premium services are available for all sorts of patients, including amateur and seasoned athletes. They work round the clock to ensure that you get the best environment that encourages healing and rehabilitation. This is the place to be if you feel that your cuff injury is weighing you down and making you less productive.
APC physio practice and believe in their motto of ‘Move Well, Feel Well, Be Well’. Their passion for physiotherapy and sports has led them to work with some of the key players in the sports industry, such as Munster Rugby, IRFU, GAA (local and inter-county) and Cork City F.C. With more than ten years of experience in assisting clients, have the experience, skills and know how to diagnose your problem and come up with the best treatment that works. Also, they have the professional network of shoulder specialists to consult with to ensure you get the best treatment possible.
The company has some of the best clinics around the region to reach as many clients as possible. Their branches are in Cork City and Fermoy. They are planning to have more branches in the near future. They also have a plan in place to ensure that you reduce the chances of suffering similar injuries in the future. By getting their services, you feel at ease and reassured with reduced pain, improved strength coupled with greater understanding and a long term solution/ plan.
How do I know if I have damaged my cuff?
You know your cuff is damaged when you feel dull ache pain in the shoulders. You might also have disturbed sleep if you lay on the affected side and your ability to move/raise your arm may be affected. The arm may feel heavier than normal.
What is the best treatment for cuff injury?
It depends on the severity of the problem. If mild, some moderate rest coupled with some physio advice to keep the shoulder working optimally is best. Injections or medication may be required for more persistant cases that give an opportunity (called a treatment window) to get the range and strength back to a good functioning level. If the problem is severe, you may be referred for a scan to help with tricky cases. In more severe instances, you should see a specialist/ consultant so you make the most informed decision about your shoulder..
Can the cuff heal on its own?
Yes, mild injuries might heal without treatment. However, you need to be certain that they are mild, which means seeing a physiotherapist is still advised.
Can you lift your arm with a tear to the cuff?
Yes, in most cases, you may still be able to lift your arm, but you will feel acute pain if the problem is less serious. If your doctor advises you against lifting your arm, kindly obey that.
Does a torn rotator cuff hurt all the time?
You will feel a mild ache when you do not move the upper part of your body. However, you will hurt all the time if the problem gets serious due to a lack of treatment.
Is massage good for the rotator arm injury?
Massage might help to relieve the pain. You want to be sure that you are being massaged by an experienced physiotherapist. Otherwise, the injury might only get worse over time.
How do you feel if the rotator cuff is torn or strained?
You will feel a mild ache or pain in the shoulder. The pain might be severe when you try to move your arm or shoulder.
Which exercises are bad for the rotator cuff?
Exercises such as lateral raises with thumbs up or throwing actions, behind the head shoulder press, triceps bench dips, and single-arm rows are not safe for your rotator cuff. Try rowing exercises if you have to train your shoulders at home or at the gym.
How do you tell if the rotator cuff is torn or strained?
You might not be able to tell the type of injury on your shoulder. That is why you are advised to seek professional advice. Your expert will perform the right test to determine the type of injury you have.
Does cuff pain radiate down the arms?
In case of a tear or strain in your arms, you will feel pain inside your shoulders. In some cases, if the injury is severe, the pain might be radiated down the arms.
Should I have cuff surgery?
Rotator cuff injury comes in many ways. It is the type and severity of your injury that determines the kind of treatment that needs to be applied. Your physiotherapist will examine your condition to come up with the best treatment method.
When can I lift my arm after cuff injury?
You will be told when you are ready to lift your arm after the surgery. After checkups, you will be advised to lift your arm over short distances until you start to feel pain. Repeat the routine daily until you can lift your whole arm comfortably without feeling pain.
What happens when the cuff is not repaired?
The decision to go ahead with treatment for damaged rotator cuffs is made on a case by case basis and depends on multiple factors such as age, physical status, sports, work etc. Make sure that you seek medical attention as soon as you get injured so that you advised on the best way forward.
Rotator cuff injury can happen to you at any time, even if you are not involved in contact sports or highly physically active job. You might fall on your arm or get an injury lifting things around the house.
Give us a call at APC Physio so we can get you back to your best again and put your shoulder pain behind you permanently with a long term plan that will give you results.