The Rotator Cuff. Is it causing your shoulder pain?
If you have shoulder pain it could be caused by your rotator cuff. What is the rotator cuff? Where is it? And what does it do? The rotator cuff is a group of muscles in the shoulder that help you move your arm in and out, up and down and help to stabilize your shoulder. The main bones of the shoulder are the shoulder blade, the collar bone, and the arm bone. The rotator cuff muscles surround the shoulder joint. Frequently when you injure the rotator cuff it’s through getting stretched too far one way, or from reaching up over head for an extended period of time, such as working overhead. When you do these things and strain the muscles, it prevents you from moving in certain directions. You can’t reach a glass on the top shelf, you can’t put things away and you also can’t throw a ball. You also can’t push or pull without some pain in the rotator cuff. How can you decrease your shoulder pain?
First, let’s look at the research. The research simply says that physical therapy, or conservative care, is really the best route to take care of a rotator cuff injury without a full thickness tear. Even in cases where there is some tearing, physical therapy can be superiorly beneficial to surgery. So, what can you do to help before you have to come in for physical therapy? What can you do to decrease some of that pain in the shoulder and rotator cuff?
When you have a rotator cuff strain, you want to begin using the muscles gently in order to decrease the pain. There are a couple of straight forward exercises that can be really helpful.
The first exercise is to simply push your elbow away from your body into a wall, or a firm surface, then squeeze it towards you. You can put a pillow or a rolled-up towel in-between your arm and body and get a firm squeeze. Alternate between those two exercises, pushing out and bringing it back in.
The last exercise would be to push your hand forward into the wall or flat surface as if you were pushing open a door. This will engage a different set of muscles in the shoulder as well as your rotator cuff muscles.
Perform these exercises two to three times a day, ten to twelve reps each. This can help you on your way to healing your rotator cuff injury without having to have surgery. If you do these exercises and they help, we would absolutely love to hear about it. Just email us and let us know.
If you do these exercises for a couple of weeks and they are not helping, and your shoulder is still giving you pain and irritation, we want to help you on that road to recovery. Please give us a call so we can help.
– Dr. Jordan
Millar AL, Lasheway PA, Eaton W, Christensen F. A retrospective, descriptive study of shoulder outcomes in outpatient physical therapy.J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2006;36:403–414
Kukkonen J, Joulkainen A, Lehtinen J, et al. Treatment of nontraumatic rotator cuff tears: a randomized controlled trial with two years of clinical and imaging follow-up [published correction appears in: J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2016]. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2015; 97:1729–1737