Rotator Cuff Injuries

These are injuries to any of the four rotator cuff muscles that help move and stabilize the shoulder joint. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint and the rotator cuff muscles function to keep the upper arm bone firmly within the shoulder socket. Rotator cuff injuries typically present as a dull achy pain. The pain is usually made worse by trying to move the shoulder especially when trying to raise the arm above head level.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Shoulder symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the tear. Weakness and tenderness of the involved shoulder is very common. Rotator cuff injuries are caused by acute injury such as a football injury (a direct blow to the shoulder) or from a skiing accident such as from landing on the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries can also be caused by chronic overuse of the shoulder, or due to the gradual aging process.

Depending on the severity and cause of the rotator cuff injury surgical intervention is sometimes required. Our physical therapists will let you know if physical therapy will be helpful for your specific condition. If your rotator cuff injury was due to acute trauma such as a skiing accident we will first send you for testing such as X-rays to rule out any potential fractures or shoulder dislocation.

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Rotator Cuff Injuries

Your rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles in your shoulder that keep the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. An injury to any one of these 4 muscles is considered to be a rotator cuff injury. Rotator cuff injuries may be either chronic or acute depending on the cause of the injury. Chronic rotator cuff injuries usually occur over time in people who play sports like baseball or tennis or people who have jobs like window washing or painting. Chronic rotator cuff injuries can also be caused by the aging process.

Acute rotator cuff injuries are caused by trauma and the injury occurs all of a sudden such as if you fall on your arm or lift something heavy causing damage to one or more of the rotator cuff muscles.

Rotator Cuff Injury Symptoms

Regardless of whether or not rotator cuff injuries are chronic or acute ignoring the situation is not going to prevent the pain or heal the injury. Knowing the common rotator cuff injury symptoms will help you to determine whether or not you need to see a doctor sooner rather than later. Rotator cuff injury symptoms include:

  • • Difficulty and pain when lifting your arm particularly above your head.
  • • Pain when moving your arm in certain ways
  • • Weakness in your shoulder
  • • Unable to lift things you would normally be able to lift
  • • A Clicking or popping sound that occurs whenever you move you arm.

Rotator Cuff Doctor

Your regular doctor should be able to diagnosis a rotator cuff injury after you describe your symptoms and he does a few tests. For example, your doctor may do a range of motion test, have X-rays or and ultra sound of your shoulder or may even ask you to have an MRI done before diagnosing your injury as a rotator cuff injury. The reason for these tests is to make sure that you do have a rotator cuff injury and there are not any other types of injuries as well that need to be treated.

Medical Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff injuries need to be treated medically. The specific treatment used will depend on the seriousness of the injury and the amount of pain you have with this injury. In many cases, rotator cuff injuries can be treated with just rest, ice packs and physical therapy. However, should the injury be serious then surgery might be necessary to have repair the damage after which you will need physical therapy to help regain use of your arm.

Physical therapy for rotator cuff injury can help you strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and may actually speed the healing process. In order to get the most out your physical therapy for your rotator cuff injury you need to follow the treatment plan set out by your doctor and the physical therapist including doing any at home exercises they encourage you to do. Since both your injury and the treatment may be painful or at least uncomfortable you will need to keep in mind the entire treatment plan is designed to help you become pain free as you heal.