Rotator Cuff Injuries

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The most common area for shoulder sports injury is the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is comprised of tendons of 4 muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis). Together the rotator cuff muscles help guide the shoulder through many motions and also lend stability to the joint.

Unfortunately, it is also a muscle group that is frequently injured by tears, tendonitis, impingement, bursitis, and strains. The ends of the rotator cuff muscles form tendons that attach to the arm bone (humerus). It is the tendinous portion of the muscle that is usually involved in a rotator cuff injury (rotator cuff tears).

There two basic types of tendon tear.

1. Chronic tear

In repetitive use injuries to the rotator cuff, repeated activities cause damage to the rotator cuff tendons. Over time, the tendons wear thin and a tear can develop within the tendons of the rotator cuff. Patients with repetitive use injuries to the rotator cuff often have complaints of shoulder bursitis prior to developing a tear through the rotator cuff tendons. Found among people in occupations or sports requiring excessive overhead activity (examples: painters, tennis players, baseball pitchers)

2. Acute tear

Traumatic injuries to the rotator cuff are seen after events such as falling onto an outstretched hand. The traumatic event can cause a rotator cuff injury by tearing the tendons. An acute tear is not as common chronic tear, but when a rotator cuff tear occurs in a patient younger than 60 years old it is usually a traumatic injury

Conservative treatment for rotator cuff injuries

The immediate goal is to control your pain and inflammation. Initial treatment is usually rest and anti-inflammatory medication. Afterwhich, a physiotherapist can direct your rehabilitation.

At first, treatments such as heat (hot-pack or ultra-sound) and ice focus on easing pain and inflammation. Hands-on treatments and various types of exercises are used to improve the range of motion in your shoulder and the nearby joints and muscles.

Later, you will do strengthening exercises to improve the strength and control of the rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles. Your physiotherapist will help you retrain these muscles to keep the ball of the humerus in the socket. This will help your shoulder move smoothly during all of your activities.

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