WHAT IS A ROTATOR CUFF INJURY?
A rotator cuff injury is a problem with the tendons and muscles that hold your shoulder joint together. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that attach muscle to bone. You use the tendons in your shoulder joint to move your shoulder and raise your arm over your head.
Tendons can be injured suddenly or they may be slowly damaged over time. You can have tiny or partial tears in your tendon. If you have a complete tear of your tendon, it is called a rupture. Other tendon injuries may be called a strain, tendinosis, or tendonitis.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
A rotator cuff injury can be caused by:
· Overuse of the tendon from a sport or work activity that involves repetitive overhead movement of your shoulder, like swimming, baseball (mainly pitching), football, tennis, painting, plastering, or housework.
· A sudden activity that twists or tears your tendon, such as using your arm to break a fall, falling onto your arm, or lifting a heavy object
You may be at higher risk for a rotator cuff injury if you have poor head and shoulder posture, especially if you are older.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms may include:
· Pain and weakness in your arm and shoulder
· Loss of shoulder movement, especially when you try to raise your arm overhead
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. You may have X-rays or other scans or procedures, such as:
· An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of your shoulder joint
· An MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of your shoulder joint
· An arthrogram, which is an X-ray or MRI that is taken after a dye is injected into your joint to outline its shape
· Arthroscopy, which is a type of surgery done with a small scope inserted into your joint so your provider can look directly at your joint
HOW IS IT TREATED?
You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until your tendon has healed. For example, avoid strenuous activity or any overhead motion that causes pain. Also, try to make sure that you are practicing good posture and are not slouching forward.
Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal.
If you have a bad tear, you may need to have it repaired with surgery. After surgery, your treatment plan will include physical therapy to strengthen your shoulder as it heals.
The pain often gets better within a few weeks with self-care, but some injuries may take several months or longer to heal. It’s important to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions.
HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF?
To help relieve swelling and pain:
· Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth, on the area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
· Take pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
Moist heat may help relax your muscles and make it easier to move your arm and shoulder. Put moist heat on the injured area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time before you do warm-up and stretching exercises. Moist heat includes heat patches or moist heating pads that you can purchase at most drugstores, a wet washcloth or towel that has been heated in the dryer, or a hot shower. Don’t use heat if you have swelling.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider.
Ask your provider:
· How and when you will hear your test results
· How long it will take to recover
· What activities you should avoid, including how much you can lift, and when you can return to your normal activities
· How to take care of yourself at home
· What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
HOW CAN I HELP PREVENT A ROTATOR CUFF INJURY?
Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. For example, do exercises that strengthen your shoulder muscles. If your arm or shoulder hurts after exercise, putting ice on it may help keep it from getting injured.
Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport. Avoid activities that cause pain. For example, avoid lifting heavy objects over your head.