Your rotator cuff is a collection of four tendons and muscles which wrap over top of your shoulders and the top end of your arm, helping to stabilize both. If this muscle group is injured, it can limit your movement and be extremely painful. Whether you require surgery or not, our physiotherapy team at Motion Works Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre are here to walk you through how physical therapy can help you to recover.
What is a Rotator Cuff?
Your rotator cuff is a group of four tendons and muscles which allow your arm to move. Each time your move your shoulders, you engage your rotator cuff to do so.
It can help to picture the shoulder ball and socket joint as a golf ball in a small tee. The socket (tee) is quite shallow, which means the muscles around the joint play a significant role in assisting with the joint’s stability and control; that is, in keeping the golf ball on the tee. Any injury or change to the shoulder dynamics can result in the ball (golf ball) not resting properly on the tee.
Your rotator cuff can get injured in any number of ways. You injury could be caused by bursitis, tendonitis, or any number of accidents caused by physical activity. Often, however, your rotator cuff becomes damaged slowly over time and with repeated use.
Both the shoulder and hip joints have 3 degrees of movement, which makes them two of the most mobile joints in the body.
In comparison to the shoulder joint, however, the hip joint is like an egg in an egg cup. The socket (egg cup) is deeper, and so it takes more movement/fault for the egg fall out of the cup. In other words, the hip has more joint (bone to bone) stability than the shoulder.
Rotator cuff injuries are very common and often quite painful. However, people tend to let them go too long, and wind up developing problematic compensation habits. Depending on the severity of the injury, and how long it has been left unaddressed, it may even require surgery.
When is Physiotherapy the Right Treatment Choice?
If you suspect that you have injured your rotator cuff, you should see your primary care physician and have your injury evaluated. Depending on the severity of this injury, there are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options which may be recommended to you. Your doctor may also refer you to an orthopedic physician who specializes in treating tendon, bone and joint injuries.
often, no matter the severity of the injury, you will be prescribed physical therapy as part of your treatment plan. When you start this course of physiotherapy will depend on whether or not you will need surgery. If you don't require surgery to treat your injury, you will likely be able to start your course of physiotherapy right away. If you do require surgical treatment, physical therapy may be prescribed specifically to assist you in your recovery.
How can Physiotherapy Help?
Your physiotherapist's job is first and foremost to help you determine the cause of your rotator cuff injury. Figuring out why this injury occurred is the key to choosing the right treatment for it. From there, we need to figure out how to get the ball back on on the tee, and keep it there during ALL movements.
Physiotherapy can help you heal and recover from rotator cuff injuries in a number of different ways. These can include:
- Using ice or heat to reduce pain
- Learning to properly carry heavy objects to avoid injury in the future
- Getting back your full range of motion
- Improve your posture while sitting or standing to reduce your pain
- Learn exercises to strengthen your shoulder muscles
At your first meeting with a physiotherapist, they will gauge your main and range of motion by asking your questions and helping your go through a series of exercises such as raising your arm or pushing against something. Once they have a sense of what your limits are, they will work to develop a custom treatment plan for your to manage your pain and get your back to your normal range of movement in no time.