Rotator Cuff Injuries
What is it and what are the symptoms?
A rotator cuff tear (otherwise known as rotator cuff tendinitis) is a tear or partial tear in the tendons that connect the muscles to the bone around the shoulder joint.
Typical symptoms are pain and tenderness to touch at the top and front of the shoulder. Pain may radiate down the arm, but not usually past the elbow.
These symptoms may come and go or can be constant. Pain is usually worse when the arm is loaded or with activities performed above shoulder height. The shoulder may be painful to lie on at night time.
What is the cause?
The injury/pain may be the result of a particular incident (eg: a fall onto arm/outstretched arm, lifting or reaching with a load) or can be due to repetitive trauma (eg: serving in tennis).
What can be done to help?
If left untreated a rotator cuff tear may develop into a more serious issue over time.
Initially a Physio will treat the symptoms. This will include advice regarding avoiding aggravating activities, perform soft tissue work and mobilise the shoulder and surrounding joints. Treatment may involve strapping or offloading the joint.
The second phase of therapy will be to rehabilitate the injury. This will involve strengthening of the rotator cuff and stabilisation of the shoulder and surrounding joints, correction of any muscle imbalances or weakness specific to the goals of the patient to return them to their pre-injury activities.
How long will it take to get better?
Resolution of the injury is variable depending on the specific structures affected, the patients age, how irritable the condition is and what the functional level the patient is aiming to return to.
Typically it will take 6 weeks for tissue healing and then a further 8-12 weeks to strengthen, recover coordination and regain sports fitness/sport specific skills and prevent re injury.
This article is written by Jo Bayliss – Physiotherapist at Freedom Health Physio & Pilates
Having graduated from Otago Uni in 1995 Jo has worked as a Physiotherapist in the US and UK before returning to NZ.
Jo is passionate about exercise based rehabilitation & muscle balance along with manual therapy which she combines with an interest in knee and lumbar spine rehabilitation. Over the years Jo has gained experience working with elite athletes and recreational athletes young and old.
She also has a particular interest in tennis players and golfers.
Jo has certification in Clinical Pilates through Dance Medicine Australia and has instructed classes and rehabilitated clients using Pilates since 2004.
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