Shoulder injuries can be painful, and injuries to the shoulder tendons tend to heal slowly due to their poor blood supply. One such injury that is common is Rotator Cuff Strain or Tendinopathy.
‘Where or what is the rotator cuff?’ you may ask. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis) that connect the shoulder blade (scapula) to the top of the arm bone (humerus). They provide the shoulder with stability and assist with movement.
There are a few signs and symptoms that are indicative of a Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy. My patients often complain of pain in the front or side of the shoulder, and sometimes down into the upper arm. Their pain is often exacerbated with elevation of their arm, and they frequently have an associated feeling of stiffness or tightness. Initially pain may be felt only after activity but as the condition progresses the ache becomes increasingly constant and is particularly bothersome at night. At this stage, pain is likely to limit participation in their chosen activity and may also affect day-to-day life.
The rotator cuff tendons are most commonly injured due to overuse; repetitive movements of the shoulder, particularly with the shoulder in an elevated position and involving rotation. Less frequently tendon damage can occur due to a large load or trauma being placed on the shoulder in an awkward position.
So what should you do if you get Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy? Rest is critical to resolving rotator cuff injuries, which means you must try to avoid all activities that aggravate your shoulder pain, including sport and day-to-day activities that involve arm elevation. Ice can be useful in the initial stages and anti-inflammatory medications may also be recommended.
Physiotherapy treatment often includes passive range of motion exercises, mobilization of the shoulder and thoracic spine, stretches and soft tissue techniques. At PHYSIO4ALL we will also gradually introduce and progress exercises to improve the stability and control around your shoulder.
Early stage exercises for Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy are important to help stabilize the shoulder. To do this exercise, sit with your elbow on a table in front of you. Gently draw the elbow into the shoulder joint by using the deep intrinsic muscles. There should be no movement from upper trapezius muscle (top of shoulder). Feel a light contraction at the bottom of your shoulder blade. Hold this for 10sec and repeat 10 times. Perform 3 sets per day. This exercise can be viewed as a video at the following link: https://www.physio4all.com.au/blog/physio4all-video-blog/rotator-cuff-stabilisation/.
Our next blog will be on hamstring tendinopathy.