No one likes being sidelined with an injury, especially when that injury puts a damper on your favorite hobbies or prevents you from working. Unfortunately, a rotator cuff injury is a common occurrence — particularly for those who participate in overhead sports like tennis or baseball — and the recovery process can be long and grueling. However, with the right treatment plan and some patience, you can be back at your favorite activities in no time.
What Is a Rotator Cuff?
Your rotator cuff is the area around your shoulder. It is made up of the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and stabilize the upper arm, keeping it in the shoulder socket. These muscles and tendons work together to lift the arm up and away from the body.
How Are Rotator Cuffs Injured?
There are two main ways that people strain or tear their rotator cuffs: overuse injuries and acute injuries.
Overuse injuries happen when a repetitive motion stresses the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, causing them to become irritated and inflamed. These types of injuries are most common in baseball pitchers, tennis players, weight lifters, and factory workers who engage in repetitive overhead motions.
Acute injuries, on the other hand, usually occur as the result of a fall or accident in which you land on your arm or shoulder. The rough landing puts too much stress on the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, causing injury. Acute injuries are more common among older adults because they often have weaker bones and muscles.
What Are Some Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The most common symptom of a rotator cuff injury is pain in the shoulder that gets worse when you try to sleep on that side or when you try to raise your arm above your head. Other symptoms include weakness in the arm and a dull ache that extends from the shoulder to the elbow.
How Is a Rotator Cuff Injury Diagnosed?
If you think you might have injured your rotator cuff, you must see a doctor or orthopedic specialist as soon as possible so they can properly diagnose and treat your injury.
Your doctor will check for signs of tenderness, swelling, weakness, and muscle atrophy around the shoulder area. They will also likely ask you to describe your symptoms in detail so they can better understand how bad your pain is and what activities make it worse. Additionally, your doctor may order imaging tests such as an X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan to get more information about your injury. These tests can help determine whether you have suffered any fractures or dislocations as well as how badly damaged your tendons are.
What Is The Treatment for a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The treatment for a rotator cuff injury will depend on the severity of your injury. In some cases, rest and ice may be all you need to allow your body to heal. However, more severe injuries may require rotator cuff physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, or surgery.
Rotator cuff physical therapy means undergoing a combination of exercises and stretches designed to improve the range of motion in your shoulder and strengthen the muscles around your rotator cuff.
No one likes being sidelined with an injury, but with the right treatment plan, rotator cuff physical therapy, and a little patience, you will be back to your favorite activities in no time.