What Is a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The shoulder is supported by four muscles and their tendons called the rotator cuff which actively stabilises the shoulder joint, however, they are prone to injury through trauma or wear and tear.
Some of the most common causes of shoulder pain are impingement, when a tendon catches or rubs on the bone, or rotator cuff tendinopathy, which is inflammation of the tendons or even a partial or full thickness tear of the tendons.
One of the tendons particularly prone to injury is the Supraspinatus tendon and there maybe painful limited arc of movement of your shoulder away from your body or even reaching the back.
The rotator cuff injuries can occur with repetitive overhead activities such as tennis and swimming but can also occur in less active people.
Am I at risk?
Those of us who play sports such as tennis, swimming and cricket are at risk due to the repetitive overhead movements associated with these sports. However, it can equally affect non-athletes and commonly seen with increasing age.
How do I know it is my rotator cuff?
The pain from the chronic form of this injury often develops over time. You may notice that it feels worse at rest or at night – lying in bed may cause discomfort affecting your sleep. The pain may also radiate to the upper arm or elbow of the affected arm and you may notice simple tasks such as dressing, brushing your hair or reaching out may be painful.
How is it diagnosed?
This would be done by taking a careful history and examination which would include specific tests to determine the strength of the rotator cuff muscles. Commonly ultrasound or MRI are used to help assess the extent of the shoulder injury and potential predisposing factors such as bone spur or arthritis of your Acromio-clavicular joint.
What treatment should I consider?
Initial self treatment may include anti-inflammatory and rest to see if your symptoms improve and gentle exercises can improve mobility and are recommended..
Often more specific directed treatment includes a steroid injection (if no tears are present in the tendons) into the subacromial space to reduce inflammation and pain and then supplemented by dedicated physiotherapy directed shoulder exercises.
Ultimately surgery may be an option, particularly if there is a complete tear, but full recovery from such surgery can take up to 6-12 months.
Other alternatives include hyaluronic acid injection into the bursa for impingement or into the shoulder joint if arthritis is suspected and these are safe alternatives to use compared to steroids.
For smaller tears PRP treatment is an option and STEM cells treatment is another viable option.
How can I guard against a Rotator Cuff Injury if I can’t give up my sport?
There is no doubt that repetitive overhead activities are a major cause of this type of injury. However, if limiting this activity is not possible, you may want to consider professional help with your technique to correct any issues which may be contributing.
Share This Post