Rotator Cuff Injury


What is the Rotator Cuff?

Your shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint that is also called the glenohumeral joint. The head of the humerus/arm bone (ball) sits in the glenoid fossa on your shoulder blade (socket).Shoulder picture

The shoulder has two different types of stabilisers:

1. Static stabilisers: ligaments and the glenoid labrum (a fibrous ring that increases the depth of the socket)

2. Dynamic stabilisers: the rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff consists of 4 muscles called supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor. These muscles attach from your shoulder blade onto your humerus (arm bone). The rotator cuff plays a major role in the biomechanics of your shoulder. When working correctly, these muscles contract together to hold the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa when you move your arm.


Injuries to the Rotator Cuff:

1. Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy: the tendons of one or more of your rotator cuff muscles become damaged due to overload. The structure of the tendon begins to change, resulting in weakness and pain. This can occur over weeks to months. This can arise from Subacromial Pain Syndrome (see article here).

2. Rotator Cuff Tear: can vary from a few fibres being torn to a full-thickness tear. Tears can arise from a specific incident or can occur if a rotator cuff tendinopathy becomes very severe. This can arise from Subacromial Pain Syndrome (see article here).


Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury:

Although there are different types of injuries that can occur in the rotator cuff, they do share some symptoms:

• Pain with activities done overhead – sometimes you can have an arc of pain when bringing your arm above your head
• Pain when bringing your hand behind your back
• Clicking
• Pain that comes from your shoulder down into your arm/forearm/hand
• Pain at night time
• Difficulty lying on your shoulder
• Weakness


Assessment of a Rotator Cuff Injury:

Your All Care Physiotherapist will ask you about the behaviour and onset of your symptoms to determine the type of pathology. They will also complete an assessment of:

• Posture
• Muscle bulk
• Range of movement of your shoulder, shoulder blade, neck and thoracic spine
• Biomechanical movement of your shoulder
• Shoulder muscle strength
• Shoulder blade muscle strength
• Special tests for the shoulder

You may also be asked to go and get an ultrasound or MRI of your shoulder to confirm the specific pathology.


Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injury:

The recovery from a rotator cuff injury unfortunately can take weeks to months. Physiotherapy can help to improve recovery rate and prevent recurrence, and generally includes:

• RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation)
• Anti-inflammatories
• Ultrasound
• Electrical stimulation
• Soft tissue release
• Dry needling
• Shoulder joint mobilisations
• Specific shoulder muscle strengthening program


What Can You Do to Help?

1. Shoulder external rotation:

• Stand holding an elastic band tied onto a door in one hand.
• Bring your shoulder blades back and down.
• Keeping your arm by your side, bend your elbow to 90°.
• Keep your elbow tucked into your side and bring your hand out to the side, and return.
• Repeat 10 times.

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2. Long arm row:

• Stand holding an elastic band tied onto a door in both hands.
• Bring your shoulder blades back and down.
• Keeping your arms straight bring your hands back so they are in line with your body, and return.
• Repeat 10 times.

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3. Shoulder Internal Rotation:


To get control of your shoulder pain, call All Care Physiotherapy today on 1300 291 133 and get back to the activities you enjoy!