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Shoulder injuries, especially rotator cuff injuries, can be tricky.

They can occur slowly, over time, with only mild symptoms, or they can suddenly and be very painful all at once.

The shoulder has a very large range of motion, being able to rotate almost 360 degrees and in multiple planes. This is because it is a “ball in socket joint” stabilized by only a few muscles and tendons.

The rotator cuff is the group of four muscles and tendons that allow the shoulder it’s impressive mobility. Under normal circumstances, the tendons attach to bone on one side and muscle on the other, allowing your shoulder to move.

However, when something goes wrong, for example, a traumatic blow to the shoulder or a repetitive strain injury, the tendon can separate from the bone. This is known as a rotator cuff tear.

Causes of Rotator Cuff Injury: Inform Your Injury Recovery

If your shoulder is in pain, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a rotator cuff tear.

Learning about your symptoms and seeking the care of a professional can help you identify which type of injury you have, and how to treat it best.

Here are the most common types of rotator cuff injuries:

  • Tendonitis: When performing repetitive overhead movements, the tendons in the shoulder can become broken down from over-use. When they do, the injured tissues swell up to protect themselves, which can cause pain or weakness.
  • Impingement: Sometimes, injured muscles swell into the space between the arm and the shoulder, causing a restricted range of motion. This type of injury is known as impingement and can also be caused by repetitive overhead movements.
  • Strain or Tear: Strains or tears happen to the muscles and tendons in the shoulder if over-use injuries are ignored and continue to get worse, or as a result of a trauma. Auto collisions, sports injuries, or falls can all cause damage to the muscles and tendons of the shoulder. Muscles are more flexible than tendons, so when a tear or strain happens it’s usually to the tendon.
  • Bursitis: The bursa are sacks of fluid that sit between the bones and tendons of the rotator cuff. They can become inflamed by repetitive overhead movements or traumatic injuries.    

The structures of the shoulder are prone to degenerate over time, so the likelihood of experiencing a rotator cuff injury increases as you age.

Fortunately, there are plenty of treatment options and preventive measures you can take to help your shoulders stay healthy in your golden years.

Rotator Cuff Injury Recovery: Physical Therapy and Strength Training

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, the best course of action is to begin a rehabilitation program. Here are some suggestions on the best way to proceed.

Seek the Guidance of A Physical Therapist

Proper diagnosis and assessment are necessary to develop a personalized recovery plan. A licensed physical therapist can do that for you, as well as supervise your recovery program and supplement it with any necessary manual therapy or pain relief measures.

Perform Strength Training Exercises

Since the shoulder is stabilized by four key muscles, repairing those muscles is a top priority. Light resistance exercise can stimulate them to grow, provide nutrients, and remove toxic waste products.

Try the following strength training exercises:

  • Doorway Stretch: Place your hands at shoulder height on a doorframe and walk through the doorway, straightening your arms to stretch your biceps and shoulders.
  • Side-Lying External Rotation: Lie down on the side opposite of your injury. Hold a lightweight in your hand, keep your arm at 90 degrees, and rotate the weight up and away from your body. Keep your elbow in line with your side.
  • Reverse Fly: Stand with weights in each hand by your sides. Bend over so your knees are slightly bent, and your hips are hinged slightly forward. Allow your arms to drop down so your hands are together in front of you, elbows slightly bent. Now, squeeze your upper back and lift the weights up and away from your body, keeping your elbows bent.

Try three sets of ten reps for each exercise, with a lightweight.

Proper rest is also required between exercises, so make sure you get adequate a break and stop if you feel pain.

Get Pain Relief Faster With Physical Therapy

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, begin rehabilitation with a physical therapist as soon as possible. By getting treatment early, you can mitigate damage to the tissues, limit pain, and speed your recovery. The therapists at South Orange Rehabilitation & Wellness are experts at treating rotator cuff injuries. Contact them today to book an appointment and start your treatment.