Rotator Cuff Injury

The rotator cuff muscles are a set of four muscles situated deep around the shoulder and shoulder girdle/blade that help provide fine control mechanisms for the shoulder and arm.

The shoulder blade is a floating bone. Its only bony attachment to the main body is via the clavicle, or collar bone. Injury to the rotator cuff muscles can lead to a number of problems and pain in different areas of the shoulder, the shoulder girdle neck and upper back due to the fine control they provide.

Symptoms usually begin with joint pain, which can include the neck, upper back or pain on the bone just above the shoulder itself. Some patients can experience pain in the upper arm or, at times, as far as the elbow.

Weakness is a common presentation, particularly on rotating the arm or on lifting, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Any patient or athlete who experiences a reduction in the range of movement in the arm should seek an assessment from a physiotherapist from the Urban Physio team for swift treatment.

Tendinopathies usually arise from overuse of the rotator cuff muscles which can lead to partial tears of the tendons. As a response from the body, calcium deposits or scar tissue is often laid in the areas of tears and sometimes can lead to full thickness tears. Fortunately, full tears are not as common in younger athletes as it is in the older population.

Rest and adequate pain relief are a good first measure to prevent further problems developing and to help deal with the symptoms in the first instance. Physiotherapy treatments can involve postural re-training, spinal mobilisations, trans-frictions therapy to assist scar tissue mobilisation from the tendon, but a gentle strengthening programme is key for all rotator cuff injuries.

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